Marketplace Scratch Pad

The unemployment fault line

Scott Jagow Apr 17, 2009

The chasm is growing between states with high unemployment and those with a low jobless rate. Today’s unemployment numbers for March show that California has its highest rate of unemployment since 1976.

You can read the Labor Department’s report here:

Regional and state unemployment rates were nearly all higher in March. Forty-six states recorded over-the-month unemployment rate increases, North Dakota and the District of Columbia registered rate decreases, and 3 states had no change in their rate… Over the year, jobless rates were up in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The national unemployment rate rose from 8.1 percent in February to 8.5 percent in March, which was 3.4 percentage points higher than in March 2008.

California, which would rank as the world’s eighth largest economy if it were a country, has obviously been hit by a glut of foreclosed homes. At the same time, people keep pouring into the state looking for jobs. From Reuters:

Over the past 12 months, 335,000 new job seekers joined the state’s labor force and “became instantly unemployed,” (economist Steve) Levy said.

“We’re a young state and an immigrant-attracting state and that will keep the unemployment rate higher,” Levy said. “We offset that during recoveries by having above-average job growth … and that’s the only way we will close the gap.”

California’s unemployment rate is now 11.2%, fourth-worst behind Michigan, Oregon and South Carolina. Regionally, the West had the highest rate, at 9.8%. The Midwest is at 9%. The Northeast had the lowest rate at 7.9%.

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