State Unemployment Data Darkens Jobs Picture

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Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released December's state-by-state unemployment data. It isn't pretty. Even though the national rate was unchanged last month, most states saw their unemployment rates worsen. 43 states and the District of Columbia saw their unemployment rates increase from November to December, many significantly. This is a major change-in-direction from November's good news, when 36 states saw their unemployment rates decline. Let's consider some of the highlights.

First, the good news. There isn't much of it. Four states saw their unemployment rates decline: Oklahoma (0.5%), South Dakota (0.2%), Iowa (0.1%) and Michigan (0.1%). Yes, Michigan was one of the four best states this month when considering the direction of unemployment. Three other states had rates unchanged: California, Idaho and Minnesota.

Every other state saw its unemployment number increase, both in rate and nominal amount. The biggest losers were Louisiana and Mississippi, both seeing their rate increase by 0.8%. Five more had a 0.7% increase: Tennessee, Massachusetts, Connecticut, West Virginia and Nevada. In fact, 33 states (and DC) had their rates increase by at least 0.3%.

As far as number of lost/gained jobs, California was the best, with its unemployed workers declining by 18,300. Michigan was second best, with 11,400 fewer unemployed. It's nice to see those two states at the positive end of the spectrum.

The most jobs were lost by New York, which saw 36,400 more jobless. Texas was second-worst, losing 28,700 jobs. Florida followed with 23,500 more unemployed. Massachusetts and Tennessee round out the bottom five, each losing about 21,000 jobs.

The best state in the nation for employment remains North Dakota with a microscopic 4.4% unemployment rate, though the rate did increase by 0.3% in December. South Dakota and Nebraska were tied for second with 4.7% unemployment.

The worst state is still Michigan, despite its positive month, at 14.6% unemployment. Nevada and Rhode Island are nearly tied for second at 13.0% and 12.9% unemployment, respectively. South Carolina, California and DC are the other states with over 12% unemployment.

If you like you data in pictures, here's the usual map showing unemployment by state, via BLS:

state unemployment 2009-12.PNG

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Daniel Indiviglio was an associate editor at The Atlantic from 2009 through 2011. He is now the Washington, D.C.-based columnist for Reuters Breakingviews. He is also a 2011 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow through the Phillips Foundation. More

Indiviglio has also written for Forbes. Prior to becoming a journalist, he spent several years working as an investment banker and a consultant.
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