Which States have the Highest and Lowest Unemployment?

Unemployment is high, but unevenly distributed

The recession has been brutal nationally, driving unemployment to highs not seen for years. It reached a peak of 9.8% of the workforce in November 2010, but has since settled to a still-worrying 9.1%.

That translates to about 13.9 million citizens who are are out of work. Of those, 6.2 million workers are considered long-term unemployed, having been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer.

There are also over 800,000 discouraged workers who may have given up looking for jobs.

Again, there are great discrepancies across states. Some states suffer from chronic unemployment, while in others, it seems the recession never happened.

The Best States

Oil has driven North Dakota's boom

The state with the least unemployed is North Dakota, where the unemployment rate is a sunny 3.2%, almost a third of the national rate.

North Dakota’s boom, and it can be regarded as such – is mainly the result of the upsurge of the oil industry. The oil boom in the western part of the state drew workers from across the country.

The town of Williston for example, in oil country, grew 17.6% to 14,716. The oil windfall has created a $1 billion state budget surplus.

Agriculture is also another powerhouse for the state, with 90% of the state’s area used for farms and ranches. It is profitable, making the state a top exporter of wheat and other crops. Federal agriculture subsidies add nearly $1 billion a year.

The runners-up in the employment picture are Nebraska (4.1% unemployment), New Hampshire (4.8%) and South Dakota (also 4.8%).  In all these states, employment is high and in two, South Dakota and Nebraska, agriculture – with subsidies – plays a big part in their success.

With an economy featuring a robust high-tech sector, professional services, retailing and tourism, New Hampshire has also weathered the recession extremely well.

The Worst States

Nevada has had the roughest time of all

On the other side of the ledger, there are 16 states above the national unemployment rate of 9.1%.  Some of the nation’s largest states, namely California and Florida, fall into this camp, but New York state’s unemployment picture does not, at a comparatively good 7.9%.

The worst state, unsurprisingly, is Nevada with 12.1% unemployment.  The imploding property market in Las Vegas led to huge layoffs in the construction industry and added to declining numbers of visiting tourists.

California is number 2 in unemployment woes, with 11.7% unemployment.  The state’s budgetary woes led to tens of thousands of layoffs in state and local governments. A huge wave of foreclosures and a decline in tourism did not help either.

Third in the stakes is Rhode Island, with a 10.9% unemployment rate, followed by Florida with unemployment of 10.6%. Health services, tourism and manufacturing were all hit in Rhode Island, while Florida’s housing disaster rivaled that of California and threw vast numbers of construction workers into unemployment lines

How is your state doing?  Is it better or worse than the national average and why?

RankStateRate
1North Dakota3.2
2Nebraska4.1
3New Hampshire4.8
3South Dakota4.8
5Oklahoma5.3
6Vermont5.4
7Hawaii6.0
7Iowa6.0
7Virginia6.0
7Wyoming6.0
11Kansas6.6
11Minnesota6.6
13Maryland6.8
14New Mexico6.9
15Montana7.3
15Utah7.3
17Alaska7.4
17Pennsylvania7.4
17Wisconsin7.4
20Massachusetts7.6
21Maine7.7
22Arkansas7.8
23New York7.9
24Delaware8.0
24Texas8.0
26Indiana8.2
26Louisiana8.2
28Ohio8.6
28West Virginia8.6
30Colorado8.7
31Illinois8.9
31Missouri8.9
33Arizona9.1
33Connecticut9.1
33Washington9.1
36Oregon9.3
37Idaho9.4
37New Jersey9.4
39Alabama9.6
40North Carolina9.7
40Tennessee9.7
42District of Columbia9.8
42Georgia9.8
42Kentucky9.8
45South Carolina10
46Michigan10.3
46Mississippi10.3
48Florida10.6
49Rhode Island10.9
50California11.7
51Nevada12.1

  • Linda Whitten

    The recession has really hit the country hard.  Some states more than others.  This time around, the most hit are those that deals with the construction and tourism industry.  Though it is not surprising that anything that deals with the oil sector has seemingly survived the last great bubble burst.  This is a great article outlining how the states are faring after the fall.

  • ‘D Surfer

    This is just sad.  Whenever I read articles about unemployment, it always paints a grim picture.  But I’m also happy because there are some states that have survived the crisis.  What is important now is to try and recover from the effects of the crisis and live normally again.

  • Vienna

    A
    lot of people don’t know this for sure. I myself only knew a little bit of
    information. Your article is great! People will be aware of what is really
    happening.