Economy Watch: Unemployment Rates Edge Up in Many States

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 28 states experienced unemployment rate upticks in June: 11 states had decreases, and 11 states and the District of Columbia saw no change.

By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday that 28 states experienced unemployment rate upticks in June: 11 states had decreases, and 11 states and the District of Columbia saw no change. Compared with last year, however, the state-by-state employment picture is more positive: 37 states and D.C. had unemployment rate decreases from a year earlier, while only seven states suffered increases and six had no change.

Nevada still has the highest unemployment rate among the states in June, coming in at 9.6 percent. The next highest rates were in Illinois and Mississippi, 9.2 percent and 9 percent, respectively. No state has double-digit unemployment anymore and the unemployment rate is at or above 9 percent in only those three aforementioned states. That’s the fewest states with 9 percent-plus unemployment since 2008.

Some states that had been groaning under high rates as recently as recently as last year have seen steady improvements since then. For example, the unemployment rate in California was 10.6 percent in June 2012, but as of June 2013 it was 8.5 percent. Florida’s unemployment rate has declined from 8.8 percent in June 2012 to 7.1 percent a year later. North Dakota continues to enjoy the lowest jobless rate among the several states: 3.1 percent.

Vehicle miles up in May

The U.S. Department of Transportation reported on Friday that travel on all roads and streets, which is an indirect indicator of economic activity, was up by 0.9 percent (2.3 billion vehicle miles) in May 2013, compared with the same month a year ago. Travel for the month is estimated to be 262.1 billion vehicle miles.

The number of miles driven consistently rose from the early 1970s to 2007, when the 12-month trailing total peaked at a little more than 3 trillion vehicle miles, representing a tripling of the total over nearly four decades. With the onset of record-high gas prices in the summer of 2008, and then the Great Recession, 12-month totals for vehicle miles have hovered consistently below 3 trillion miles since then.

The number of miles driven is also affected by gas prices, which were generally down in May. Prices started to rise in June, however, and especially (so far) in July, which will probably spur a downtick in total vehicle miles as the summer continues. According to AAA on Sunday, the current average nationwide is $3.671 per gallon of regular, compared with $3.60 only a week ago (and $3.592 a month ago).

Wall Street ended the trading day on Friday mixed. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 4.8 points, or a scant 0.03 percent, and the Nasdaq lost a considerably larger 0.66 percent. The S&P 500 gained a modest 0.16 percent.

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