Economy Watch: Little Change in State Employment Rates in April

The economy is still creating jobs but is it creating enough jobs to sustain genuine growth, or merely enough to tread water?

The economy is still creating jobs—perhaps the most important macroeconomic consideration for the health of the real estate market—but is it creating enough jobs to sustain genuine growth, or merely enough to tread water? The latest report from Bureau of Labor Statistics hints that job-creation stagnation might be the case, at least for now.

According to the BLS on Friday, unemployment rates were significantly lower in April in five states, higher in four states, but stable in 41 states and the District of Columbia. Not only that, 19 states enjoyed notable unemployment rate decreases from a year earlier, two states suffered increases, while the majority—29 states and D.C.—experienced no notable net change.

South Dakota and New Hampshire had the lowest jobless rates in April, 2.5 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively. The unemployment rate in Arkansas (3.9 percent) set a new series low—the lowest rate in 40 years, in other words. (All of the bureau’s state series begin in 1976.) Alaska and Illinois had the highest rates, 6.6 percent each.

Separately, the BLS reported that April’s workforce participation rate—the number of the adult population working for pay—was 62.8 percent. That was a small drop from 63 percent in March, and not much of a change from April 2015, when the rate was 62.7 percent.

By contrast, the participation rate was around 66 percent 10 years ago. The recession removed a good number of workers from the workforce, and so has the retirement of the leading edge of the baby boom. In the near future, however, the rate will probably go up as millennials enter the workforce faster than boomers retire.