Unemployment rates down in half the states

More than half have recorded their lowest unemployment rates ever since the start of last year.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis speaks during a rally on the campus of Colorado State University-Pueblo on Sept. 28, 2022, in Pueblo, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Unemployment rates are falling back toward pre-pandemic lows as states return to normal, even in the midst of fears of a pending recession.

New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show unemployment rates were lower in January in 24 states and Washington, D.C., than in January 2022, and flat in five more states. 

The unemployment rates in New Mexico, New Jersey and D.C., were more than 1.5 percentage points lower than a year ago, leading the nation. Rates dropped by at least 1 point in Alaska, Colorado and California, the new data show.

“With Colorado’s unemployment rate dropping below 3%, it is clear that Colorado is the best place to live, work, and do business,” Gov. Jared Polis (D) crowed in a release, as his state’s unemployment rate dropped to 2.8%.

Colorado is one of 16 states where unemployment rates are below 3%. North Dakota and South Dakota lead the nation in unemployment rates.

Only one state — Oregon — saw its unemployment rise by 1 percentage point, to 4.8%. 

Nevada is now the only state in the nation where the unemployment rate stands north of 5%. A year ago, that group included New Jersey, Alaska, New York, California, New Mexico and D.C.

In a sign of how much the national economy has rebounded since the depths of the brief pandemic recession, 29 states have recorded their lowest-ever unemployment rates since the beginning of 2022. The January report marked a new record low for Louisiana, Maryland and Montana, according to the BLS figures.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics only began gathering state-level unemployment rates in 1976. Nationally, the unemployment rate dropped to 3.4% in January, the lowest rate in 54 years.