In his latest commentary, the National Restaurant Association's Chief Economist Bruce Grindy breaks down the latest state jobless rates. Thirty-four states saw their unemployment rate decline in March, one of the most broad-based improvements since the recovery began.
Bolstered by the private sector, the economic recovery gained a stronger foothold on the national level in recent months. The nation’s private sector added 230,000 jobs in March on a seasonally-adjusted basis, which followed a solid gain of 240,000 jobs in February and marked the first time in five years that private-sector job growth exceeded 200,000 in two consecutive months.
But just as Tip O’Neill said all politics are local, the same often holds true for economics. While the overall health of state economies continues to vary dramatically, the trends are generally moving in the right direction.
Thirty-four states saw their jobless rate decline in March, one of the most broad-based improvements since the economic recovery began. The only exception was May 2010, when temporary hiring for the 2010 Census led to a drop in the unemployment rate for 39 states. Jobless rates were unchanged in March for nine states and the District of Columbia, while only seven states saw an increase in their unemployment rates. Overall, these latest trends indicate the laying of a solid foundation for a sustained economic recovery.
Fueled by a booming oil and gas industry, North Dakota continued to lead the way in March with a paltry unemployment rate of just 3.6 percent. This marked the 33rd consecutive month in which North Dakota had the nation’s lowest unemployment rate, and the whopping 280th consecutive month of jobless rates below 5 percent.
Other states in the nation’s midsection had jobless rates well below the national average in March, including Nebraska (4.2 percent), South Dakota (4.9 percent), Iowa (6.1 percent), Oklahoma (6.1 percent), Wyoming (6.2 percent), Minnesota (6.6 percent) and Kansas (6.8 percent).
Meanwhile, the New England states of New Hampshire (5.2 percent) and Vermont (5.4 percent) registered the lowest jobless rates among states east of the Mississippi River.
Led by Michigan, states in the Rust Belt saw the sharpest declines in their unemployment rates in recent months. After soaring to a nationwide-high of 14.1 percent in September 2009, Michigan’s jobless rate fell nearly four percentage points to a level of 10.3 percent in March. During the last 12 months alone, Illinois (-2.2 percent), Indiana (-2.1 percent) and Ohio (-1.6 percent) also saw substantial declines in their unemployment rates.
On the flip side, jobless rates in some of the states hit hardest by the recession remain stubbornly high. Nevada’s unemployment rate stood at 13.2 percent in March, the state’s 18th consecutive month with the distinction of the nation’s highest jobless rate. California (12.0 percent), Florida (11.1 percent) and Rhode Island (11.0 percent) also had jobless rates well above the national average in March.
State Unemployment Rates March 2011
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics; figures are seasonally-adjusted
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