Employment remains the key to the economy's turnaround. But a
new report on state-by-state employment shows just how difficult it
is to get job markets in 50 different states moving forward at the
On August 17 the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its
Regional and State Employment and Unemployment
for the month of July. Here's an example of how paradoxical
conditions seem these days: While the report showed that the number
of jobs was up in most states, it also showed that the unemployment
rate was up in most states.
When the big picture conclusions are that contradictory, it
takes a little sifting to get to the meaning of an economic report.
Employment conditions matter to more than just job seekers. Putting
more people back to work means conditions for businesses should
improve as consumers have more money to spend, and savers should
interest rates on CDs
, savings accounts and other deposits can start to rise again.
With so much riding on employment, here are some highlights from
the recent report:
Improvement is inconsistent from state to state.
So much economic reporting refers to conditions on the national
level, but the fact is that each state has its own distinct
economy, often with very differing sets of conditions. For
example, total employment increased in 31 states in July, with
California, Michigan, and Virginia leading the way by adding over
20,000 new jobs apiece. At the same time, 19 states saw a net
loss in jobs, with New Jersey getting the worst of it by losing
The West is not the best.
Similar differences are apparent if you look at the country
regionally. The unemployment rate is worst in the West, at 9.4
percent. It is significantly better -- though still unacceptably
high -- in the Midwest, at 7.5 percent.
Some troubled areas are making progress.
Again, some areas have it much worse than others, but at least
there are signs of improvement in some trouble spots. For
example, California and Nevada continue to suffer two of the
highest unemployment rates in the nation, but each has also been
among the leaders in reducing unemployment over the past
More people are looking for work again.
Now back to that paradox: 31 states added jobs in July, yet the
unemployment rate increased in 44 states. The number of jobs and
unemployment rate can only rise at the same time if more people
are joining the labor force. In part, this may be due to more
people becoming encouraged enough to start looking for work
again, which could be a sign of grass-roots optimism for the
Because it showed net job creation, the overall message of the
July state-by-state employment report was positive, but only mildly
so. It will take less of a mixed message to help a meaningful
number of unemployed people, let alone business conditions and
deposit interest rates.