With 2016 unemployment rates of 2.7%, New Hampshire and South Dakota replaced North Dakota as the states with the lowest unemployment rates — the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Tuesday. New Mexico’s 6.7% unemployment rate is the highest in the country, pushing West Virginia and Nevada out of that position.
National unemployment figures were released in early February. The nationwide unemployment rate declined from 5.3% in 2015 to 4.9% last year. However, national rates do not tell the full story of employment in the United States. While unemployment declined in the majority of states, it remained unchanged or increased in 12. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed current annual unemployment rates in all 50 states.
> 2016 unemployment: 5.4% (tied – 9th highest)
> 2015 unemployment: 6.2% (7th highest)
> Chg. from 2015: -0.8%
> Adults w/ college degree: 32.3% (14th highest)
Between 2015 and 2016, state unemployment rates declined by as much as 1.2 percentage points in Massachusetts, and increased by a nation-leading 1.1 percentage points in Wyoming. Wyoming’s unemployment rate rose from 14th lowest in 2015 to 13th highest in 2016. On the whole, though, unemployment rate changes between 2015 and 2016 did not meaningfully alter where most states rank.
For the most part, state jobless ranks reflect longer-term trends. The U.S. economy has changed drastically in the past decade. As the housing bubble burst and the economy spiraled into the worst recession since the Great Depression, unemployment hit a multi-decade high of 10% in October 2009. Current unemployment rates among states largely reflect events over the last decade.
The prevalence of certain skillsets in the labor force can help prevent major swings in unemployment, as highly-educated residents are often better able to find work. Of the 10 states with the highest unemployment rates, seven have college attainment rates lower than the national average. Of the 10 states with the lowest unemployment rates, seven have a higher share of college-educated adults.
To identify the states with the highest and lowest unemployment rates, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed 2016 annual unemployment rates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. State figures, as well as the relative change in each state’s employment came from Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Local Area Unemployment Statistics database. The percentage of adults who have at least a bachelor’s degree was obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey.