Job losses continue to mount in every state across the country, show new data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employers have laid off 4.4 million workers since the recession began, and a record 12.5 million workers are now unemployed. All but one state—Nebraska—saw a month-over-month increase in unemployment in February. The typical state’s unemployment rate is 3.1 percentage points above where it was in February 2008.
Michigan continues to have the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 12.0 percent, followed by South Carolina (11.0 percent), Oregon (10.8 percent), North Carolina (10.7 percent), and Rhode Island and California (10.5 percent). February’s unemployment rate was above 7 percent in 31 of 50 states as well as in the District of Columbia.
In February, nonfarm payroll employment decreased in all but one state—Louisiana—as well as in the District of Columbia. The figure above shows cumulative job losses in each state, relative to the highest employment level reached since 2000 in each state. Six states (Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, and Ohio) never recovered to the peak employment levels of 2000 or 2001, and so job changes are shown relative to that peak. For all other states, job losses are measured to their peak employment in 2007 or 2008 (click on the state to see the month and year of the employment peak).
The largest cumulative job losses in February occurred in California, where employers laid off 116,000 employees (0.8 percent of their workforce). The sharpest job losses as a percent of the state’s total workforce occurred in Oregon, where employers laid off 1.3 percent of their employees over the past month, followed by Arizona and Washington where employers shed 1.0 percent of their workforce.
High unemployment has led to sustained high numbers of applicants for unemployment benefits nationwide. The four-week moving average—the weekly average number of new applicants for unemployment benefits over the previous four weeks—was 649,000 last week and continues to be at levels not seen since the recession in the early 1980s.
Many unemployed workers are finding that getting a new job is increasingly difficult. Nearly one in four unemployed workers (23.1 percent) have been out of work and searching for a job for at least six months, up from less than one in five (17.3 percent) a year ago. And 3.4 million workers over the past year ran out of unemployment benefits before they found a new job.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allows states with high unemployment (above 6.5 percent) to provide an additional 13 to 20 weeks of unemployment benefits, fully paid for by the federal government. However, states need to authorize spending and only half have done so. If the remaining states do not act, then over half a million (567,000) jobless Americans will exhaust their federal unemployment benefits in the next few weeks. Sixty percent of workers who have become unemployed over the past 12 months have not received any unemployment benefits.
For more information on the percentage of workers not getting benefits now, and on the Unemployment Insurance Modernization Act, see the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s Half in Ten report, “Helping the Jobless Helps Us All.”