Economy Watch: State Unemployment Stats Suggest Full Employment is Near

Four states experienced unemployment rate decreases in April, while rates were stable in 46 states and D.C., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics latest jobs report.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, See full report for interactive map.

Unemployment rates were lower in April in four states and stable in 46 states and the District of Columbia compared to March, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday. Only 12 states had jobless rate decreases compared with a year earlier and 38 states and D.C. experienced no change.

The April report is similar to previous monthly reports this year and throughout much of 2017. The stability of state-level unemployment suggests—though economists disagree about a precise definition—that the U.S. is experiencing full employment, or at least is quite close to it.

The four states that enjoyed unemployment rate decreases for the month were Illinois, New Mexico, and South Carolina, which were down 0.2 percentage points each, and Delaware, down 0.1 percentage points. Among the states that experienced unemployment rate decreases compared with April 2017, the largest decline was in Kentucky (down 1.2 percentage points), followed by Alabama (down by 1 percentage point).

In April, the BLS reported, Hawaii had the lowest unemployment rate among all the states, coming in at 2 percent. The rates in Hawaii, California (4.2 percent) and Wisconsin (2.8 percent) set new series lows. That is, the rates were the lowest since the bureau started calculating rates in the way it does now, back in 1976.

Alaska had the highest jobless rate in April, coming in at 7.3 percent. All together, 16 states enjoyed unemployment rates lower than the U.S. figure of 3.9 percent, while 10 states and D.C. suffered higher rates, and 24 states had rates not that different from that of the nation as a whole.