Employment data point to continued regional recovery
February employment reports for the states of the Sixth Federal Reserve District showed increases in jobs for most areas and further declines in unemployment rates. For the six states together, net job gains were 17,900, which is just about what the average gain has been for the region since January 2011. Florida bounced back from its January decline with a net increase of 10,100 jobs. Georgia gave back part of its January jump by shedding a net 8,300 jobs. Month-to-month volatility in state jobs data is not uncommon, so we're not too worried about Georgia's February report, just like we didn't lose too much sleep over Florida's January decline. Other states in the region registered net increases in total employment in February.
Regional unemployment rates also continued to fall. All states in the Sixth Federal Reserve District saw declines in February except Louisiana, whose unemployment rate of 7 percent is already well below than national rate of 8.3 percent and the average for the region (8.7 percent). Importantly, declines in regional unemployment rates are a result of falling unemployment as opposed to a drop in the labor force.
While we would like to see faster growth in employment and further drops in unemployment rates, recent data appear to confirm that regional labor markets are continuing to heal.
By Mike Chriszt, a vice president in the Atlanta Fed's research department
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