Yesterday, the Labor and Economic Division released October labor market data for all 100 counties. The headline of the release was that the unemployment rate had dropped in 98 counties, or nearly all, in the past month. It sounds like good news, and it is, but the new data also show that many parts of the state are still struggling mightily. As the Budget and Tax Center has noted before, you have to look deeper than the headline unemployment number to know whether employment prospects are actually improving.
Such a look behind the unemployment rate does show signs of labor markets improving year-over-year, primarily along the lines seen at the state and national level. The number of unemployed people has declined since October 2013 in all counties and a majority of counties have seen gains in employment.
But it is not “mission accomplished” time yet. The October county data contain worrying signs that should not be glossed over.
The majority of counties have not caught up to pre-recession levels of employment. Employment prospects are still slow to emerge in many counties, particularly in the rural parts of the state. Sixty six counties have more unemployed people in October 2014 than they did in December 2007.
Even more concerning, roughly one-third of the counties registered declines in employment from October 2013 through October of this year. Beyond not having caught up to pre-recession employment, many parts of our state have taken a step back over the last year. Again, this troubling trend is most concentrated in rural counties. Read more