WASHINGTON (6/23/14)--Rhode Island tops an economic data category that no state ever wants to lead: unemployment.
At 8.2%, the Ocean State posted the only 8%-plus unemployment rate in the U.S. in May, according to state and regional U.S. Labor Department numbers released Friday.
But while the news may not be welcome in Rhode Island, for the rest of the country, the fact that only one state is still stuck above 8% may signal that the labor market is improving.
Said Alexander Miron, a Moody's analyst (Economy.com June 20): Although hiring slowed in the South and West, employment in each region is on track for a strong (second) quarter. More improvement in the pace of hiring became visible in the Northeast, which is snapping back from rough winter weather.
Only one state over the last 12 months has watched its unemployment numbers rise, according to the Labor Department, as Alabama's jobless rate climbed to 6.8% from 6.4% year-over-year.
After Rhode Island, Nevada, Mississippi and Kentucky recorded the next-highest unemployment rates in the country, at 7.9% for Nevada and 7.7% for Mississippi and Kentucky.
The lowest unemployment rate in the U.S. can be found in North Dakota, where over the last year the rate has fallen to 2.6% from 3%.
On North Dakota's heels, Vermont's unemployment came in at 3.3%, and Utah, South Dakota and Nebraska all recorded 3.6% unemployment.
States that experienced the biggest drops in unemployment from April to May were Illinois, Massachusetts, California, Montana and Utah.
The national unemployment rate sits at 6.3%.
"Twenty states had unemployed rate decreases from April," the Labor Department press release said. "Sixteen states had increases and 14 states and the District of Columbia had no change."