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Unemployment Well Above 6% In Several States, West Virginia At 7.5%

While U.S. unemployment has dropped to 5.3% and the economy adds roughly 200,00 new jobs a month, several states have maintained unemployment rates much closer to what the higher national number was two years ago. And, many of these states have not made the progress recently that the total country has

The state with the highest unemployment rate is West Virginia, at 7.5%, followed by Alaska at 6.8%, Nevada at 6.6%, Mississippi at 6.5%, New Mexico at 6.5%, and South Carolina at 6.4% . West Virginia is one the few of the 50 states where unemployment got worse in July, moving from 7.4% in June.

One thing some of these states have in common is “one industry” economies. That is certainly true in West Virginia, home to a portion of the coal industry that is dying. Alaska’s oil production peaked decades ago. Nevada’s employment base includes casino workers. And, the number of casinos across the country continues to increase

At the other end of the unemployment rate, several states are below 4%. This includes Nebraska at 2.7%, Vermont at 3.7%, Iowa at 3.8%, Hawaii at 3.7%, North Dakota at 3%, South Dakota at 3.8%, and at 3.6% in both Utah and Vermont.

Commenting on state employment nationwide, management at the BLS reported:

.Regional and state unemployment rates were little changed in July. Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia had unemployment rate decreases from June, 14 states had increases, and 12 states had no change, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Forty-one states and the District of Columbia had unemployment rate decreases from a year earlier, six states had increases, and three states had no change. The national jobless rate was unchanged from June at 5.3 percent and was 0.9 percentage point lower than in July 2014.


In July 2015, nonfarm payroll employment increased in 34 states and decreased in 16 states and the District of Columbia. The largest over-the-month increases in employment occurred in California (+80,700), Texas (+31,400), and Florida (+30,500). The largest over-the-month decrease in employment occurred in New Jersey (-13,600), followed by Louisiana (-4,500) and Kansas (-4,300). The largest over-the-month percentage increase in employment occurred in Wyoming (+0.9 percent), followed by Oklahoma and Rhode Island (+0.7 percent each). The largest over-the-month percentage decline in employment occurred in North Dakota (-0.5 percent), followed by Hawaii, Kansas, New Jersey, and West Virginia (-0.3 percent each). Over the year, nonfarm employment increased in 47 states and the District of Columbia, decreased in 2 states, and was unchanged in Alaska. The largest over-the-year percentage increase occurred in Utah (+4.4 percent), followed by Nevada (+3.7 percent) and Florida (+3.5 percent). The over-the-year percentage decreases occurred in West Virginia (-2.5 percent) and North Dakota (-0.6 percent).