Policy Analysis | March 2012

Latest State Unemployment Rates

Sujit CanagaRetna

The U.S. Department of Labor released the latest state unemployment figures earlier this week. According to this report, in January 2012, 45 states recorded a decrease from the previous month, one state (New York) experienced an increase and the remaining four states (Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New Mexico) did not see a change. A comparison of state unemployment trends in January 2012 with January 2011 reveals that 48 states had rate decreases with only New York experiencing an increase and Illinois remaining unchanged. The improving state unemployment picture reflected trends at the national level, though there is room for significant improvement in the nation's employment situation. As noted by the U.S. Department of Labor late last week, in February 2012, the national unemployment rate was 8.3 percent, unchanged from the previous month, and the lowest rate in three years as U.S. employers added 227,000 jobs to complete three of the best months of hiring since the end of the Great Recession. In the past three months, the economy has generated an average of 245,000 jobs per month.

Among the nation's four regions, the unemployment rate was highest in the West in January 2012 (9.6 percent) while the Midwest recorded the lowest rate (7.7 percent). The South experienced a statistically significant over-the-month unemployment rate change (-0.2 percent). Among the nation's nine geographical divisions, the Pacific reported the highest jobless rate (10.2 percent) while six divisions, including the East South Central and South Atlantic, enjoyed statistically significant unemployment rate declines in January 2012.

Nevada's unemployment rate was the highest among all the states (12.7 percent), with California and Rhode Island recording the next highest rates (10.9 percent each). North Dakota (3.2 percent) and Nebraska (4 percent) were the two states with the lowest rate. Of the 14 states that recorded statistically significant over-the-month unemployment rate declines, two SLC states (Mississippi and Missouri) secured the largest declines (-0.5 percent each). There were 24 states that had an unemployment rate in January 2012 that was lower than the national average.

The improving employment situation in the states is reflected in a number of exciting projects across the country. A sampling of these projects, both new and expansions, include the following:

Virginia:

  • In March 2012, Governor Bob McDonell announced that Rolls-Royce would be expanding its operation in the Commonwealth with the construction of the new Advanced Blade Manufacturing Facility, an operation involving high-precision turbine blades for some of the world's most sophisticated aircraft engines built by the company. The Prince George County facility will include an initial investment of $170 million and employ up to 150 additional highly skilled workers.

Indiana:

  • In March 2012, Rolls-Royce announced a $42 million investment to convert a vacant building near Indianapolis International Airport into a new manufacturing plant to produce compressed banded stators, stationary sets of blades mounted around a jet engine to handle air flow off the rotors. While these components will be used to power the Airbus (the European aircraft manufacturer) A350, the facility will create 100 new jobs by 2014.

Georgia:

  • In February 2012, Caterpillar announced the location of a new $200 million manufacturing facility in Clarke and Oconee Counties that will hire about 1,400 when fully operational. While the new facility will become Caterpillar's global source for small track-type tractors and for mini-hydraulic excavators, it will provide completed machines for customers in North and South America.
  • Also, the world's busiest airport, Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International, is almost ready to open its $1.4 billion new international terminal. While some 3,000 workers were hired in the plan, design and build phases of the project, an additional 1,500 workers will be hired to maintain and manage the new terminal when it opens on May 16, 2012.

Tennessee:

  • In February 2012, Nissan announced that its Smyrna, plant plans to add an additional 1,000 jobs over the next year to staff a second shift to assemble the $40,000-plus luxury Infiniti JX Crossover and a redesigned Nissan Pathfinder Crossover. Nissan officials at the Tennessee facility indicated that total employment at the Smyrna plant could be pushing 6,000 workers – nearly double its current level – by early next year as workers build two new crossover utility vehicles plus batteries and, eventually, the Leaf electric car. In addition, about 1,300 workers will be hired to make lithium-ion batteries for the Nissan Leaf electric car and to add Leaf production to the Smyrna plant in early 2013. The battery plant currently employs 3,500 workers.

North Carolina:

  • In March 2012, AW North Carolina, the company that makes transmissions for a range of Toyota models (Camry, Tundra, Tacoma and Sequoia) announced a multimillion-dollar expansion that will add as many as 250 jobs during the next year. This was the company's second expansion in less than two years and includes an additional investment of $14 million at its Durham location, where it now employs 1,500 people.

Iowa:

  • In February 2012, Iowa Fertilizer Company announced the establishment of a large-scale fertilizer plant to produce ammonia and other nitrogen fertilizers for farmers in Iowa and the Midwest in Lee County. The project represents an investment in excess of $1 billion and is expected to create 165 permanent jobs.

While these descriptions demonstrate a fraction of the new projects being activated around the country, the employment picture in the United States continues to remain dire. Notwithstanding the impressive improvement from the depths to which the U.S. economy plunged during the Great Recession, millions of Americans continue to be unemployed and underemployed. Specifically, the latest underemployment rate, the number of people who have given up looking for work and those with part-time jobs looking for full-time work, remains at an uncomfortably high 14.9 percent in February 2012. Notwithstanding the fact that this 14.9 percent was at its lowest level in three years and that the number of people across the country employed in February 2012 (142.1 million) was the highest since January 2009, there are millions of Americans that are still pursuing employment.

Civilian Labor Force and Unemployment by State, Seasonally Adjusted (in 1,000s)

(click on headers to sort by column)

  Civilian Labor Force Unemployed
Number Percent of Labor Force

State Jan. 2011 Nov. 2011 Dec. 2011 Jan. 2012 p Jan. 2011 Nov. 2011 Dec. 2011 Jan. 2012 p Jan. 2011 Nov. 2011 Dec. 2011 Jan. 2012 p
Alabama 2,203.3 2,174.8 2,171.6 2,161.2 205.1 180.0 174.4 168.9 9.3 8.3 8.0 7.8
Alaska 366.3 368.6 369.1 368.0 28.5 27.4 27.2 26.7 7.8 7.4 7.4 7.2
Arizona 3,061.8 3,020.7 3,019.0 3,005.8 301.8 275.8 270.3 262.5 9.9 9.1 9.0 8.7
Arkansas 1,368.2 1,375.7 1,378.5 1,382.5 110.3 108.2 107.1 105.2 8.1 7.9 7.8 7.6
California 18,358.1 18,455.6 18,475.0 18,462.3 2,222.7 2,089.8 2,060.1 2,019.5 12.1 11.3 11.2 10.9
Colorado 2,723.2 2,730.4 2,734.0 2,730.1 238.5 217.2 215.1 213.1 8.8 8.0 7.9 7.8
Connecticut 1,921.3 1,918.1 1,918.8 1,916.2 178.0 158.9 155.8 152.4 9.3 8.3 8.1 8.0
Delaware 438.2 440.8 441.6 440.5 33.0 31.9 31.8 31.0 7.5 7.2 7.2 7.0
District of Columbia 345.9 344.6 345.3 346.5 34.7 35.1 34.8 34.4 10.0 10.2 10.1 9.9
Florida 9,209.2 9,291.6 9,303.3 9,297.1 1,007.2 934.6 922.5 894.3 10.9 10.1 9.9 9.6
Georgia 4,715.6 4,735.4 4,740.1 4,745.1 475.5 449.6 445.4 437.4 10.1 9.5 9.4 9.2
Hawaii 659.8 662.1 662.7 661.0 43.9 44.4 44.1 43.2 6.7 6.7 6.6 6.5
Idaho 767.3 774.3 775.3 775.5 67.8 65.5 64.6 62.9 8.8 8.5 8.3 8.1
Illinois 6,554.4 6,584.6 6,585.5 6,579.8 614.9 648.5 638.4 620.3 9.4 9.8 9.7 9.4
Indiana 3,168.9 3,212.0 3,214.4 3,210.5 285.9 291.7 286.5 279.1 9.0 9.1 8.9 8.7
Iowa 1,668.6 1,662.5 1,666.6 1,666.7 101.2 92.6 93.4 90.4 6.1 5.6 5.6 5.4
Kansas 1,505.6 1,509.5 1,512.4 1,510.2 104.6 97.1 96.3 92.4 6.9 6.4 6.4 6.1
Kentucky 2,069.6 2,068.3 2,069.0 2,066.3 204.7 189.0 185.9 181.9 9.9 9.1 9.0 8.8
Louisiana 2,073.2 2,059.7 2,062.7 2,058.4 160.5 145.5 144.2 142.4 7.7 7.1 7.0 6.9
Maine 702.7 707.1 708.1 708.8 55.9 50.4 49.8 49.5 8.0 7.1 7.0 7.0
Maryland 3,070.0 3,081.5 3,084.4 3,079.2 224.9 207.6 203.3 200.2 7.3 6.7 6.6 6.5
Massachusetts 3,463.9 3,455.7 3,457.2 3,455.9 270.1 241.5 237.7 237.5 7.8 7.0 6.9 6.9
Michigan 4,678.4 4,635.7 4,630.4 4,632.3 510.9 444.2 431.0 417.0 10.9 9.6 9.3 9.0
Minnesota 2,969.5 2,980.2 2,981.8 2,976.4 202.0 175.0 171.0 165.9 6.8 5.9 5.7 5.6
Mississippi 1,335.3 1,350.1 1,350.6 1,348.1 140.1 142.8 140.7 133.7 10.5 10.6 10.4 9.9
Missouri 3,052.8 3,048.4 3,052.3 3,041.3 275.4 246.9 244.0 228.4 9.0 8.1 8.0 7.5
Montana 502.5 506.4 506.5 506.1 34.7 33.8 33.4 32.8 6.9 6.7 6.6 6.5
Nebraska 997.2 1,014.2 1,016.6 1,015.5 45.1 43.5 42.9 41.0 4.5 4.3 4.2 4.0
Nevada 1,387.6 1,384.8 1,384.5 1,377.7 190.9 182.6 179.7 174.7 13.8 13.2 13.0 12.7
New Hampshire 737.4 740.6 741.4 742.3 41.2 39.1 38.5 38.2 5.6 5.3 5.2 5.2
New Jersey 4,546.2 4,575.2 4,580.3 4,573.4 426.5 420.1 416.2 411.9 9.4 9.2 9.1 9.0
New Mexico 930.7 926.9 927.3 928.6 71.8 65.8 64.6 64.6 7.7 7.1 7.0 7.0
New York 9,527.6 9,513.0 9,522.3 9,514.5 780.0 778.8 776.8 789.2 8.2 8.2 8.2 8.3
New York City 3,943.5 3,959.0 3,963.8 3,960.9 350.4 360.5 359.8 368.2 8.9 9.1 9.1 9.3
North Carolina 4,632.2 4,670.3 4,677.2 4,683.5 487.0 486.7 484.2 476.3 10.5 10.4 10.4 10.2
North Dakota 379.3 387.6 388.8 389.7 13.5 13.3 13.0 12.4 3.6 3.4 3.3 3.2
Ohio 5,824.6 5,793.6 5,791.3 5,789.9 526.0 470.0 457.7 447.3 9.0 8.1 7.9 7.7
Oklahoma 1,767.3 1,782.4 1,786.6 1,784.8 110.4 112.2 112.7 109.1 6.2 6.3 6.3 6.1
Oregon 1,992.6 1,994.3 1,995.2 1,993.6 197.5 181.8 179.1 176.3 9.9 9.1 9.0 8.8
Pennsylvania 6,400.5 6,385.8 6,387.7 6,381.1 514.2 498.2 489.2 484.7 8.0 7.8 7.7 7.6
Rhode Island 565.5 562.3 562.0 560.2 64.4 62.7 62.1 61.3 11.4 11.1 11.0 10.9
South Carolina 2,152.0 2,159.3 2,159.4 2,151.5 227.6 212.0 208.1 200.2 10.6 9.8 9.6 9.3
South Dakota 445.8 447.9 449.1 449.4 22.4 19.4 19.4 19.1 5.0 4.3 4.3 4.2
Tennessee 3,124.2 3,138.5 3,140.4 3,134.8 297.7 271.8 266.2 257.5 9.5 8.7 8.5 8.2
Texas 12,390.8 12,502.3 12,518.6 12,518.7 1,005.5 946.1 930.8 912.1 8.1 7.6 7.4 7.3
Utah 1,349.5 1,329.8 1,330.7 1,330.7 100.9 78.6 77.4 76.1 7.5 5.9 5.8 5.7
Vermont 360.2 360.0 360.4 360.6 21.6 19.1 18.8 18.2 6.0 5.3 5.2 5.0
Virginia 4,278.3 4,339.9 4,347.6 4,342.3 273.3 267.1 263.7 253.8 6.4 6.2 6.1 5.8
Washington 3,494.8 3,489.8 3,492.4 3,490.9 334.1 304.7 300.0 291.4 9.6 8.7 8.6 8.3
West Virginia 801.2 801.8 802.6 802.3 66.2 62.9 62.3 59.2 8.3 7.8 7.8 7.4
Wisconsin 3,069.7 3,056.5 3,056.4 3,054.7 236.6 217.7 213.2 209.9 7.7 7.1 7.0 6.9
Wyoming 303.3 305.7 306.2 306.7 19.1 17.5 17.2 16.8 6.3 5.7 5.6 5.5

Note: p - preliminary