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Job Woes Linger in 29 States as U.S. Recovers Unevenly

Bloomberg (09/30/14) Steve Matthews

The U.S. Department of Labor reported in May that employment exceeded the prerecession peak, but 29 of 50 states have not matched that threshold. For example, New Mexico had 4% fewer employed workers, ranking among the bottom 10% of states, and the weakest rebound in jobs has been in states central to the 2002-06 housing bubble and subsequent price collapse. Nevada, Arizona, and Florida are the furthest from their peak employment numbers, and Alabama, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, and Ohio remain more than 50,000 positions short of that level. Regional concerns have hit several states hard, including New Jersey with its loss of casino and pharmaceutical jobs and New Mexico with its loss of U.S. government defense jobs.

Meanwhile, economic expansion in 12 of the 13 states leading growth has been spurred by the energy industry. IHS Global Insight economists say the state that will be last to exceed prerecession employment will be Michigan, in 2019. Auto industry jobs in Michigan are expected to be less important, a June Moody’s Analytics’ forecast says, as “education, tourism, green technologies,” and information technology “will become increasingly important.”