Unemployment rates plunge to record low in 5 states

Nationally, the unemployment rate stands at 3.6%, near a half-century low.
FILE – The skyline of Milwaukee, along Lake Michigan, is pictured on Feb. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger, File)

Statewide unemployment rates dropped to record lows in five states spanning the geographic and political spectrum last month, even as tech layoffs make headlines in the face of what some see as a looming recession.

The unemployment rates in Alabama, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana and Wisconsin all hit the lowest rates ever measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the agency said Friday.

Those rates have fallen below 3% in Alabama, Maryland, Montana and Wisconsin, and Mississippi’s rate stands at 3.7%.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking state-level unemployment rates in 1976. In just the last few years, most states have hit both record-high unemployment rates — in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, when businesses laid off millions of workers — and, more recently, record-low rates.

Forty-five states recorded their highest-ever unemployment rates in April or May 2020, in the earliest days of Covid-19 shutdowns. Since then, 29 states have recorded all-time low rates.

Nationally, the unemployment rate stands at 3.6%, near a half-century low.

North Dakota and South Dakota have the nation’s lowest unemployment rates, at 2.1% each. The tight labor market has forced some states to look at new solutions to fill jobs: North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) earlier this month proposed offering $20 million in tax credits and grants to expand automation in businesses.

Fifteen other states — from conservative Utah and Nebraska to liberal Maine, Vermont and Colorado — sport unemployment rates below 3%.

Nevada remains saddled with the nation’s highest unemployment rate, at 5.5%, the only state with a rate above 5%. Oregon, Washington, Delaware and Illinois have rates above 4.5%.

More than two-thirds of states have more employed workers today than they did a year ago. Florida and Texas have both added nearly a quarter-million jobs in the last twelve months, the BLS data show, while California has added 126,000 and New Jersey notched an additional 102,000 jobs.

Connecticut and Tennessee represent the biggest job losers of the last year. Both states have 42,000 fewer people at work today than in February 2022. Wisconsin, Mississippi, Massachusetts, Kentucky and Illinois have all lost more than 10,000 workers each.