Department of Numbers

Regional Unemployment

Posted Friday, November 06 2009

The BLS released the national unemployment figures for October today, but I decided to look at some of the state and metro level rates this afternoon to see if there was any positive news to be found there. Of course it's at best a mixed bag. With the headline rate increasing to 10.2% in October, it stands to reason that things are still getting worse on the whole. There were a couple of things that stood out when I looked at particular cities and states, however.

The midwest has probably suffered the least in this recession. I wonder if residents of North Dakota even realize that we experienced a near economic collapse in the last two years. Of course, North Dakota accounts for comparably little of the total employment of the US, but some of the larger nearby locales may still share some of those characteristics that have insulated places like North Dakota so much. Maybe Minneapolis, for example.

The unemployment rate in Minneapolis (and Minnesota as a whole) was 7.3% in September — considerably less than the national rate. And both city and state unemployment rates have declined since June. I should reiterate that metropolitan area unemployment data (from the BLS) is not seasonally adjusted, so it makes month-to-month comparisons difficult. Still, the variation in Minneapolis' monthly rate appears to be small and also moves with the overall state rate pretty well (which is seasonally adjusted). So this isn't any kind of absolute judgement, but perhaps Minneapolis and Minnesota are in the early stages of recovery.

Where else might this be the case? Maybe Denver? Denver and Colorado's unemployment rates are also notably lower than the national rate (7.1% and 7.0% respectively in September) and have actually been declining since July.

Do Minnesota and Colorado have anything in common? The first thing that comes to mind is that neither city really participated in the housing boom. That's probably not enough to start making broader statements about economic recoveries in other metros, but it certainly helps to not have a local economy that relied signifiantly on real estate growth for economic growth — that and being relatively close to North Dakota apparently. Whatever the reason, I'm certainly curious to see if these two places continue to recover when local unemployment data is released later this month.

Update: Nevada's unemployment rate and Oregon's unemployment have been higher than most for longer than most. Are they turning now?