Economic Update: Unemployment Rate & Distribution

Economic Update: Unemployment Rate & Distribution

The latest regional job report from the U.S. Department of Labor revealed that non-farm employment in America increased in 10 states in March, decreased nowhere, and was essentially unchanged everywhere else.

As for joblessness, the unemployment rate fell in 37 states in March and was stable elsewhere. In total, 15 states had unemployment rates lower than the national figure of 3.6 percent, and 13 states had higher rates. New Mexico had the highest unemployment rate in March (5.3 percent), closely followed by Nevada (5.0 percent) and California (4.9 percent), whereas Nebraska and Utah were tied for the lowest jobless rate at 2.0 percent.

The composition of the tails of the unemployment distribution is largely related to lingering side effects of the pandemic. With Nevada, for instance, it has had one of the highest jobless rates throughout much of the crisis since a good chunk of its economy is highly dependent on the leisure and hospitality industry which has been one of the hardest hit sectors due to its sensitivity to lockdowns and other activity restrictions. Nebraska, on the other hand, has maintained one of the lowest rates of unemployment thanks in part to its relatively more spread out population and an economy that is less reliant on close-proximity service-providing industries. Moreover, New York, California, and other underperforming states in the labor market recovery have maintained relatively higher rates of joblessness in large part because they continue to have some of the most restrictive, purportedly pandemic-fighting policies in place.

In some ways such draconian measures have accelerated earlier migration trends in this country. Recently updated data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed that over the past decade the population has started to shift away from most urban counties toward the Sunbelt and the suburbs. This continued throughout the pandemic with the San Francisco Bay Area, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago being among the biggest population losers, whereas Texas and Florida continued to enjoy significant population growth. Some of the acceleration was perhaps caused by Americans simply not wanting to live where local politicians could on a whim deem one’s work “nonessential.” For others, the decision to move (to the suburbs) was likely motivated by the rapid rise in remote work, which lessens the need to live near expensive city centers.

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  • James Bullard Speaks 4:00 PM ET


  • Housing Starts and Permits 8:30 AM ET
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  • Jobless Claims 8:30 AM ET
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