In a headline trumpeting the wrong thing, Bloomberg is reporting Unemployment Decreased in Nine U.S. States in January.

The unemployment rate decreased in nine U.S. states in January and climbed in 30, signaling the thawing of the labor market is not broad-based.

The jobless rate in Michigan showed the biggest drop, falling to 14.3 percent, still the highest in the nation, from 14.5 percent in December, according to figures issued today by the Labor Department in Washington. New York and New Jersey were among eight states where unemployment decreased by a tenth of a point.

A national unemployment projected to average 9.8 percent this year signals state budgets will be strained by decreases in tax revenue and rising jobless insurance payments. The loss of 8.4 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007 means the labor market in the world’s largest economy will take years to rebound.

“This is a recovery that’s really kind of concentrated,” said Steven Cochrane, director of regional economics at Moody’s in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “It still portends weakness in income-tax revenue and sales-tax revenue into fiscal year 2011.”

Unemployment in the Detroit area, home to General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co., dropped to 15.3 percent from 16 percent in December, contributing to the decrease in Michigan’s jobless rate.

States showing the most improvement in coming months will probably be those with a large manufacturing base, said Moody’s’s Cochrane. The need to rebuild inventories and growing exports is propelling a factory rebound that will help some parts of the country over others, he said.

Unemployment in California, Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina and the District of Columbia climbed to the highest levels since records began in 1976.

Regional and State Report

With that backdrop let’s take a look at the actual data from the BLS Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Report for January 2010.

Thirty states and the District of Columbia recorded over-the-month unemployment rate increases, 9 states registered rate decreases, and 11 states had no rate change, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the year, jobless rates increased in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The national unemployment rate fell from 10.0 percent in December to 9.7 percent in January, but was up from 7.7 percent a year earlier.

In January, nonfarm payroll employment increased in 31 states and the District of Columbia, decreased in 18 states, and remained unchanged in 1 state. The largest over-the-month increase in employment occurred in California (+32,500), followed by Illinois (+26,000), New York (+25,500), Washington (+18,900), and Minnesota (+15,600).

State Unemployment (Seasonally Adjusted)

Michigan again recorded the highest unemployment rate among the states, 14.3 percent in January. The states with the next highest rates were Nevada, 13.0 percent; Rhode Island, 12.7 percent; South Carolina, 12.6 percent; and California, 12.5 percent. North Dakota continued to register the lowest jobless rate, 4.2 percent in January, followed by Nebraska and South Dakota, 4.6 and 4.8 percent, respectively. The rates in California and South Carolina set new series highs, as did the rates in three other states: Florida (11.9 percent), Georgia (10.4 percent), and North Carolina (11.1 percent). The rate in the District of Columbia (12.0 percent) also set a new series high.

Six states reported statistically significant over-the-month unemployment rate increases in January. New Mexico experienced the largest of these (+0.3 percentage point), followed by California, Florida, Idaho, and Utah (+0.2 point each) and Maryland (+0.1 point). The remaining 44 states and the District of Columbia registered jobless rates that were not appreciably different from those of a month earlier, though some had changes that were at least as large numerically as the significant changes.

West Virginia and Nevada recorded the largest jobless rate increases from January 2009 (+3.5 and +3.4 percentage points, respectively). Six other states reported rate increases of 3.0 percentage points or more: Florida, Illinois, and Wyoming (+3.2 points each), Rhode Island (+3.1 points), and Alabama and Michigan (+3.0 points each). The District of Columbia also registered a large over-the-year unemployment rate increase (+3.6 percentage points). Thirty-five additional states had smaller, but also statistically significant, rate increases. The remaining seven states reported jobless rates that were not appreciably different from those of a year earlier.

Unemployment Rates By State

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Percentage Change Year Over Year

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Things are improving a bit in Michigan while climbing to new highs in California, Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina and the District of Columbia.

Note that California was the state adding the most jobs. Employment just did not increase by enough relative to those seeking jobs.

These numbers show how shaky the “recovery” is, especially with huge budget concerns and layoffs coming in most states.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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