The U.S. unemployment rate is holding fast, but shifts in state economies may change that.
Unemployment statistics can be difficult to interpret, but seeing where people are working can often provide a unique view into how the economy is performing at any given time. While the national unemployment rate in the United States remains at one of its lowest levels seen in the past decade, the labor market in the U.S. remains fluid and constantly changing.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the national jobless rate has held tight at 4.9 percent. In fact, total nonfarm payroll employment even jumped by 242,000 in February 2016.
But that doesn’t mean that employment is rising across the board. The BLS reported that while employment in health care and social assistance, food services, retail, and private educational services rose in February, losses continued in the mining sector.
Because the U.S. is such a large country, it would also be helpful to visualize unemployment in terms of geography. For example, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose 0.2 percent in Iowa. The state’s manufacturing sector has laid off even more workers in the past year, shedding 5,000 private jobs in February.
Similarly, unemployment in Montana was on the rise in February. The state’s labor department announced that the unemployment rate was up to 0.1 percent to 4.2 percent. There was a net loss of 151 jobs in the state, including agricultural work and self-employment.
By contrast, the unemployment rate in Massachusetts plunged in February. While the total jobless rate dropped from 4.9 percent to 4.7 percent, even separate regions of the state saw varying degrees of change in employment levels. The jobless rate in the western region of the state was well over the state average, with the city of Springfield even experiencing a 9 percent unemployment rate.
The moral of the story is that employment numbers from every community, town and state come together form the nation’s unemployment rate. While some regions are performing well, others face hard times, and even more experience little change whatsoever. There’s no indication that a huge shift will shock the country anytime soon, but you can get a better sense of what the figure means by looking at its individual parts first.
A press release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics describing the nation’s current employment situation can be found here.