Trends in State-level Unemployment

Data from October 2022

Despite recent high-profile layoffs, the US unemployment rate held at 3.7%, well below historical averages, for October 2022.

The US economy emerged from COVID-19 with the wind at its back, but BLS data highlights a more interesting trend: clear differences in state-level economic indicators.

Some states up, others down

Unemployment is diverging considerably at the state and regional levels.

  • Minnesota and Utah had the lowest jobless rates in October at 2.1%.
  • North Dakota and Vermont were a close second at 2.3%.
  • Louisiana and Pennsylvania finish October with their lowest levels of unemployment on record.
  • However, Washington, DC (4.8%), Nevada, and Illinois (4.6%) were on the other side of the distribution bell curve.

More work than workers

Unemployment is a function of broader trends in the labor market. Despite rates being historically low, millions of jobs remain unfilled nationally. This trend appears most pronounced in resource-rich states such as Texas and the Dakotas.

A decade of recovery

The labor market is strong at the moment, but that has not been the case for the past ten-plus years. The Covid-induced shock (2020-2022) will dominate economic textbooks for a generation, but the global financial crisis a decade earlier still haunts the US economy.

Far from a narrow decline associated with the housing market, the 2007-2009 crash hollowed out large parts of the American economy. The numbers are jarring.

In 24 months, household wealth in the US declined by a staggering $19.2 trillion.

The median wealth in the Hispanic community fell by 86%.

With such severe losses, many communities have not fully recovered from the economic trauma visited upon them fifteen years ago.

Long, uneven recovery

By October 2012 (left), several states had unemployment rates approaching double digits.

Three years later, in October 2015 (center), unemployment rates were generally trending downward but remained high across most of the American South and West.

By October 2022 (right), state-level unemployment rates fell below 5%, the historical average, in every region and all fifty states.