Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Recovery from Recession: Comparing States

The nation's recovery from the Great Recession is proving to be uneven, with some states still stuck in the downturn and others bouncing back. I used figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released only two weeks ago to see how states compared. The maps below show what I found.

I created two maps, one that looks at the increase in average wage across occupations and the other that looks at the increase in total workforce size:

The outstanding state obviously is North Dakota, where the petroleum boom is lifting both wages and employment by high percentage figures (11.2 percent and 13.8 percent).

Some states show very difference performances on the two maps. For example, Colorado's workforce increased by a healthy 5.3 percent, but its average wage increased by only 1.2 percent. In other words, most of the jobs it gained were low-wage jobs. (Three Sunbelt states--California, Arizona, and Florida--experienced similar lopsided gains.) By contrast, West Virginia's workforce expanded by only 1.3 percent, but its wages gained by a substantial 3.8 percent. Perhaps the small size and low population density of this state contributed to this phenomenon (and similar results in Vermont); to expand the workforce even by a small amount, employers had to jack up wages more than was necessary in more crowded states.

My state, New Jersey, bears the shame of posting less than 2 percent gains on both measures. We Garden Staters share this dubious distinction with New Mexico, Arkansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.

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