State Unemployment Rates Mostly Down in March

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, during March 21 states had unemployment rate decreases, 17 states and the District of Columbia had increases, and 12 states had no change, compared with February.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday, during March 21 states had unemployment rate decreases, 17 states and the District of Columbia had increases, and 12 states had no change, compared with February. All together, 24 states had unemployment rates significantly lower than the U.S. figure of 6.7 percent, while five states had measurably higher rates. Twenty-one states and D.C. had rates not that different from that of the country as a whole.

Rhode Island had the highest unemployment rate among the states in March, coming in at 8.7 percent. The next highest rates were in Nevada and Illinois, 8.5 percent and 8.4 percent, respectively (for many months, Nevada had the dubious distinction of the highest rate, but no more). Energy-booming North Dakota once again had the lowest jobless rate, which came in at 2.6 percent in March.

The largest month-over-month increases in employment occurred in Florida (a gain of 22,900 jobs), North Carolina (up 19,400) and Georgia (up 14,600). The largest monthly decrease in employment occurred in Pennsylvania (losing 8,400 jobs), followed by Virginia (down 5,100) and Illinois (down 3,200).

Number of underwater homes dropping

RealtyTrac reported last week that during the first quarter of 2014, 9.1 million U.S. residential properties were “seriously underwater,” by which the company means that the combined loan amount secured by the property (primary mortgages and home equity borrowing together) is at least 25 percent higher than the property’s estimated market value. That’s about 17 percent of all properties with a mortgage.

That’s bad, but not nearly as bad as they underwater stats used to be. In fact, the Q1 2014 total is the lowest since RealtyTrac began tracking negative equity at the beginning of 2012. During the fourth quarter of 2013, about 9.3 million residential properties (or 19 percent of all properties with a mortgage) were seriously underwater, while in the first quarter of 2013, 10.9 million residential properties were seriously underwater, which represented 26 percent of properties with a mortgage.

On the flipside, the number of “equity-rich properties”—those with at least 50 percent equity—grew to 9.9 million in the first quarter of this year, or 19 percent of all properties with a mortgage. That’s up from 9.1 million (18 percent) of all properties with a mortgage in the Q4 2013.

Wall Street was closed for Good Friday, as were stock exchanges in Europe and parts of Asia. The Nikkei 225 was up 0.68 percent for the day, partly recovering from previous downward trading sessions.