Unemployment Rates By State: See Your State Rank

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The nation’s jobless rate inched higher in February from the previous month. But at less than 4%, the share of the labor force looking for work remains at historically low levels.

The jobless rate has remained below 4% since December 2021. The reading for February, at 3.6%, is one of the lowest in a decade.

U.S. Unemployment Rate

The unemployment rate for February was 0.2 of a percentage point lower than at the same time last year.

The U.S. added an estimated 311,000 jobs in the latest month.

Unemployment Rates by State

States With the Highest Unemployment Rates

At the state level, Nevada had the highest unemployment rate for December—the latest month with available data—at 5.5%. Oregon (4.8%) and Illinois (4.6%) also made the list

States With the Lowest Unemployment Rates

The latest report showed the state with the lowest unemployment was North Dakota, with a jobless rate of 2.1%. South Dakota was also among the states with the strongest job markets, with an unemployment rate of just 2.2%. Utah’s jobless rate of 2.4% was the third lowest in December.

Different Measures of Unemployment

The unemployment rate gives a big-picture measure of the labor market. But other measures offer a more detailed jobs picture.

For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) measures how many people have been unemployed for 15 weeks or longer. In February, the share of the workforce in that category dropped to 1.1% from 1.5% the previous year.

Other measures include discouraged workers, people who want to work but haven’t been able to find a job in the past 12 months. Discouraged workers aren’t counted as unemployed because they haven’t looked for a job in the previous four weeks.

Methodology

The unemployment rate is based on data collected from the Current Population Survey (CPS), also known as the household survey. The BLS surveys about 60,000 households, or about 110,000 people, monthly through in-person and phone interviews. To best determine unemployment rates, the Census Bureau examines data from each state and Washington D.C., including metropolitan, industrial and farming regions in urban and rural areas.

What Is the Unemployment Rate?

The unemployment rate measures how many people over the age of 16 are currently unemployed but are actively looking for work. People are no longer counted in the unemployment rate after four weeks of not seeking work. Unemployment data is gathered each month by the Census Bureau and the BLS. The unemployment rate for the month of February was 3.6%.

How Are Unemployment Rates Determined?

Using survey data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), also known as the household survey, the BLS calculates the unemployment rate by dividing the number of unemployed people by the total number of people in the labor force, then multiplying by 100: [(unemployed ÷ labor force) x 100].

How Does a High Unemployment Rate Affect the Economy?

High unemployment rates can have several negative effects on the economy, including an increased need for public assistance, a drop in consumer spending, and decreased productivity, leading to lower incomes.

If the unemployment rate rises, it can have a snowball effect. As people lose their jobs, they spend less, so the demand for goods and services decreases; if this pattern persists, it can cause enormous damage to the economy.

An extreme example of how a high unemployment rate damages the economy was seen during the Great Depression, when the unemployment rate was estimated to have hit nearly 25%.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why do state unemployment rates vary so immensely?

The unemployment rate can vary among states for many reasons. It can be influenced by the types of industries prevalent in each state and how in-demand those industries are. For instance, states with large tourist and hospitality industries, such as California, saw their unemployment rates spike during Covid-19 lockdowns.

What is a healthy unemployment rate?

Unemployment is considered to be at a level that’s healthy for the economy when it’s in the 4% range. Generally, a low unemployment rate is good for the economy. But when unemployment dips too low, it can have negative consequences such as high inflation.


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