Giving Thanks for Faster Payroll Growth
As we gear up to give thanks this week, the folks at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) issued a report last Friday that gave us one more thing to be grateful for: last month, the Southeast gained more payrolls (67,700) than any other month since May 2010, when labor markets began to feel the effects of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. (In May 2010, a significant share of new payrolls across southeastern states was in the government sector. In October 2013, states in the region added payrolls at a nice clip while to some degree shedding government payrolls—with the exception of Tennessee, where government payrolls held steady in October.) In fact, the BLS’s regional and state employment and unemployment summary for October—which included September data and was delayed because of the partial federal government shutdown—noted that Florida gained more payroll jobs in October (44,600) than any other U.S. state.
Indeed, the chart below shows Florida carried the Southeast in terms of payroll growth in October. The state not only added 44,600 payrolls last month, but that one-month addition brought the state’s year-to-date payroll creation (January–October 2013) to about 167,000. Florida has also seen the largest 12-month decline in its unemployment rate of any other state in the nation (down by 1.5 percentage points).
Despite the improving pace of progress in Florida’s labor market, though, the Sunshine State is still about 450,000 payrolls away from its last peak, in March 2007 (see the chart).
Payrolls, by industry
Payroll growth, as usual, varied widely among southeastern states in October (see the table). Likewise, growth across industries within each state was also often uneven. Last month, the construction sector saw 10,500 new payrolls in Florida and 3,400 new payroll jobs in Louisiana. Likewise, leisure and hospitality industries saw 11,000 new payrolls in Florida and 3,100 in Louisiana. Georgia’s gains in manufacturing employment (3,700) were not enough to offset losses in the state’s retail, financial activities, and government sectors.
State unemployment rates
State unemployment rates also headed in a favorable direction last month, with the Sixth District’s aggregate unemployment rate now equal to the nation’s (see the chart). Three states now sit above the national and Sixth District rates of unemployment (Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi), and three are below (Alabama, Louisiana, and Florida). Three states in the region saw slight declines in their October unemployment rates. Alabama’s ticked up slightly (0.1 percentage point) to reach 6.5 percent, and Mississippi’s and Tennessee’s unemployment rates stayed the same.
How many payroll jobs should it take to make unemployment rates in Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi equal the U.S. rate? Our new “State by State” tab on the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s Jobs Calculator can tell you quickly. For example, to reach an unemployment rate of 7.3 percent in six months, Georgia would need to add 9,298 jobs per month, Tennessee would need to add 7,670 jobs per month, and Mississippi would need to add 2,775 jobs per month.
The BLS will release its next report on regional and state employment and unemployment at 10 a.m. on December 19.
By Mark Carter, a senior economic analyst in the Atlanta Fed’s research department
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