11 States at Record Low Unemployment

By: - September 20, 2019 12:00 am

Job seekers at an Amazon-sponsored job fair in Seattle. Washington state is one of three states that have increased jobs by about 3% in the past year as of August. Elaine Thompson/ The Associated Press

This article was updated to correct the number of states that recorded historically low unemployment rates in August.

Eleven states recorded historically low unemployment rates in August, as job growth in many areas is running out of workers to keep the boom going.

Vermont’s rate of 2.1% was the nation’s lowest last month, according to new seasonally adjusted government figures released Friday.

In Vermont, low unemployment is making it hard for employers to fill jobs. The state is experimenting with ways to coax more people back into the labor force — including “returnships” that give older workers and others a way to develop new skills, said Matthew Barewicz, an economist at the state Department of Labor.

“We have a very tight labor market,” Barewicz said. “And all sorts of organizations are looking to hire workers with the right experience.”

Vermont’s August unemployment rate was at a historic low, as were 10 other states: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, South Carolina and Texas. The figures were first collected in 1976.

Alaska had the highest unemployment rate at 6.2%, but even that is at or below the range generally considered by economists to be “full employment” — somewhere between 4% and 6.4%.

The number of states with unemployment spikes that might indicate recession danger grew to include Mississippi along with Minnesota and North Carolina. Hawaii fell out of that danger zone, which historically gives states a 50-50 chance of being near a recession, according to a Stateline analysis.

Minnesota and North Carolina economists said their unemployment increases are not likely to signal problems because they are still creating jobs and their unemployment rates are still relatively low at 3.3% and 4.2% respectively.

All states have now added jobs over the past year, ranging from about 3% in Nevada, Utah and Washington to less than 1% in Louisiana, Wisconsin and Hawaii, according to Friday’s release.

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Tim Henderson
Tim Henderson

Tim Henderson covers demographics for Stateline. He has been a reporter at the Miami Herald, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Journal News.