Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Jobless Pain Continues in Most States in May

Jobless pain continues in most states in May

by Lisa Lambert

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Signs unemployment pains may be easing in individual U.S. states in April disappeared by May, when jobless rates jumped in 48 states and the District of Columbia, according to data released on Friday.

Michigan again reported the highest unemployment rate of 14.1 percent, followed by Oregon, which notched 12.4 percent, its greatest on record, the U.S. Labor Department said.

Not only did Michigan hold the highest spot in terms of unemployment, a position it has had for 25 of the last 26 months, but the state also experienced the largest monthly increase in its rate as two American auto behemoths -- General Motors and Chrysler -- struggled.

Michigan has had a jobless rate of 7.0 percent or more since April 2007, and broke above 9.0 percent in December.

Oregon, which has seen its rate spike over the last few months, had the largest increase from a year earlier, 6.7 percentage points, the Labor Department said.

"News on state unemployment rates is dismal," wrote Philippa Dunne, editor of the economic newsletter The Liscio Report.

The National Conference of State Legislatures called the data "disappointing".

The national unemployment rate last month was 9.4 percent, and 17 states and the District of Columbia recorded rates that were higher. In 15 states and the District of Columbia rates were greater than 10 percent, meaning that in those states at least one in 10 people does not have a job.

In Nebraska, the rate edged down to 4.4 percent from 4.5 in April while the rate in Vermont was unchanged at 7.3 percent.

California registered its highest unemployment rate on record, 11.5 percent, and also lost the most jobs, 68,900, of all the states in May, followed by Florida, which lost 61,000.

Southern states, too, also reached historical highs, with North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Georgia all registering record high unemployment rates.

At the same time, the number of jobs dropped in 39 states, but increased in 11 states and the District of Columbia.

Massachusetts gained the most jobs, 4,900.

Oregon's unemployment rate is now more than twice its year-ago level.

The Northwestern state has been shedding manufacturing jobs for three years, but the drop has been the most severe since the end of 2008, according to the Oregon Employment Department. Employment in durable goods manufacturing, dominated by wood products in a region known for logging, peaked in August 2006, with 156,900 jobs and is now at 118,900.

Joy Margheim, a Policy Analyst at Oregon Center for Public Policy, said on a conference call with reporters the state's jobless rate has also risen as more people enter the job pool, with retirees and spouses who had stayed home returning to the labor market and newcomers moving into the state with no job.

Noting that Ohio, where the unemployment rate is 10.8 percent, never regained the jobs it lost during the last recession in 2001, Zach Schiller, research director of Policy Matters Ohio, told the same call that chronic joblessness is becoming a problem in the manufacturing-centered state.

"We're in a pretty long-term decline," he said.

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