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    Unemployment rates by state tell different stories

    Posted on 5th Mar 2019 in Cubicles

    The U.S. experienced a decline in employer hiring in February after two very strong months of job activity, according to New Jersey-based software firm iCims. The company’s Monthly Hiring Indicator (MHI) showed hiring dipped 8.5%, while new job opening were down 7.4% after seasonal adjustments.

    The overall job market remains strong, however, with the national unemployment rate staying at or below 4.1% since December of 2017. But there are a few outliers when the numbers are broken down by state. The latest numbers by the Bureau of Labor Statistics were published this past December and those are the baselines for this article.

    Iowa and New Hampshire lead the pack

    Every four years, the states of Iowa and New Hampshire are always trending news because they are the first two states to hold their caucuses and primaries for U.S. Presidentia elections. Citizens of other states have long complained that the Hawkeye State and Granite state should not have this privilege every election and that the designations should be rotated. But there may be a method to the madness when it comes to order of primaries.

    Iowa and New Hampshire both boast 2.4% unemployment rates. Part of this can be attributed to the two states’ education systems. New Hampshire was ranked number-4 and Iowa number-5 in the latest U.S. News and World Report’s Best States for Education. Iowa also had a 91% graduation rate, one of only two states (New Jersey) with a rate north of 90% and well above the national 85% average. New Hampshire ranked as the 7th-most educated state, according to a WalletHub report.

    Job opportunities are abundant in Iowa as well. The corporate office of Wells Fargo’s home mortgage division is headquartered in West Des Moines, Iowa. Principal Financial Group and Rockwell Collins also employ thousands of Iowans. Casey’s General Stores, Hy-Vee, and Faraway Stores also offer decent paying jobs with benefits. C&S Wholesale Grocers, C&S Career, and Keene State College employ thousands of people in New Hampshire.

    Alaska, New Mexico, West Virginia blues

    There are currently only four states (and the District of Columbia) with unemployment numbers above 5%. Alaska has the highest unemployment rate at 6.5% But there are several factors at work here that make the numbers look this bad. Alaska has a lot of seasonal employment, where jobs only span the summer months. This is particularly true for the commercial fishing and tourism industries. There is also the subsistence lifestyle factor. Many small villages have families that live by hunting and fishing for food.

    The construction and hospitality industries are two of the top sectors for employment in New Mexico as it relates to job growth. But the state continues to lose jobs in mining, IT, and manufacturing. The retail industry in New Mexico cut over 1,100 jobs in 2017 alone. Mike Beck of the Associated Contractors of New Mexico, told the Santa Fe New Mexican last April that qualified workers leave the state for their neighbors, Arizona and Colorado, that have plenty of jobs to offer.

    West Virginia has the dubious distinction of having six of the nation’s 41 metropolitan areas that experienced increased unemployment from 2017-18. Mining and logging, two of the state’s most important sectors, are continually lose jobs. The good news is that the construction sector gained jobs in 2018 and looks to be strong for the year’s ahead.

    Middle packers

    The sheer size of California (4.1% unemployment), and the Bay Area being the mecca of technology in the U.S., essentially guarantees cubicles for anyone with desire and decent education. North Dakota (2.6% unemployment) has all those well-paying oil jobs. Hawaii is a perpetual tourism spot and thus always has jobs available.

    The February Jobs Report is expected to be released this week, with no significant changes in trends expected.

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