Unemployment Still High in Several Poor States

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The unemployment rate dropped to 3.9% in August, as the economy added 201,000 jobs. The continues a trend of labor improvement that goes back to 10% levels during the Great Recession. However, several states continue to have a jobless rate higher than the national average, and most of these states are poor.

The jobless rate was at or over 5% last month in three states: Alaska at 6.7%, Louisiana at 5.0% and West Virginia at 5.3%. The rate was 5.6% in the District of Columbia. Only marginally better, the jobless rate was 4.8% in Mississippi.

Alaska ranks in fourth place among states for highest annual household income at $67,825. However, the state’s residents get money from the Permanent Fund Dividend created so that residents can share in oil industry profits. This supplements income in a way not available to residents of any other state.

Mississippi ranks rock bottom among states based on median household income at $36,919. Louisiana ranks 44 at $41,734. West Virginia ranks 48th at $38,432.

Among the other observations in the State Employment and Unemployment Summary for August:

Unemployment rates were lower in August in 13 states, higher in 3 states, and stable in 34 states and the District of Columbia, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Eleven states had jobless rate decreases from a year earlier and 39 states and
the District had little or no change. The national unemployment rate was unchanged from July at 3.9 percent but was 0.5 percentage point lower than in August 2017.

Nonfarm payroll employment increased in 4 states in August 2018 and was essentially unchanged in 46 states and the District of Columbia. Over the year, 35 states added nonfarm payroll jobs and 15 states and the District were essentially unchanged.

Hawaii had the lowest unemployment rate in August, 2.1 percent. The rates in Idaho (2.8 percent), Oregon (3.8 percent), South Carolina (3.4 percent), and Washington (4.5 percent) set new series lows. (All state series begin in 1976.) Alaska had the highest jobless rate, 6.7 percent. In total, 15 states had unemployment rates lower than the U.S. figure of 3.9 percent, 9 states and the District of Columbia had higher rates, and 26 states had rates that were not appreciably different from that of the nation.