Jobless Rate Climbs in 46 States, With California at 11.2%
By STU WOO and SUDEEP REDDY
California and North Carolina in March posted their highest jobless rates in at least three decades, as unemployment increased in all but a handful of states during the month, the Labor Department said Friday.
California’s unemployment rate jumped to 11.2% in March, while North Carolina rose to 10.8%, the highest for both since the U.S. government began a comprehensive tally of state joblessness in 1976.
The state-by-state employment figures showed only a few states avoiding the deterioration seen nationwide. Unemployment rose in 46 states during the month, and 12 states plus the District of Columbia posted unemployment rates in March that were significantly higher than the 8.5% nationwide figure the government released earlier this month.
The Nation’s Unemployed
March unemployment rates, state-by-state.
The chief economist for California’s finance department, Howard Roth, said the state’s unemployment rate hasn’t been this high since reaching 11.7% in January 1941. The highest level on record in California is 14.7% in October 1940, he said.
California lost 62,100 jobs in March, with Florida next at 51,900 jobs lost, Texas at 47,100 and North Carolina at 41,300, according to the federal figures.
California, the nation’s most-populous state, has been hit particularly hard by the housing-market crash. That led to major job losses in the construction and financial industries. “We did it bigger in terms of the housing bubble,” Mr. Roth said. “You pay for that by falling farther.”
Still, the latest figures offered a “glimmer of hope,” he said. March losses were about half the 114,000 jobs shed in February, a sign that the pace of decline in California’s job market may be slowing.
Most economists expect job losses across all U.S. nonfarm employers to continue in April at or near the rapid pace seen in March, when 663,000 jobs disappeared.
California exemplifies the troubles across America. Teresa Nelson, a 54-year-old public-interest lawyer, has sought work at government or nonprofit agencies since last summer. She has applied for 20 jobs and landed five interviews. “I have a lot of qualifications, lots of experience, but people assume I need a higher salary,” said Ms. Nelson, who lives in the San Francisco Bay area. “It’s been frustrating.”
The federal report showed 48 states and the District of Columbia posted payroll declines in March. Only Mississippi and North Dakota had slight gains of about 300 jobs.
Among states, North Carolina experienced the largest month-over-month percentage drop in payroll employment, about 1%. It was followed closely by Idaho, Minnesota and Washington state, each losing about 0.9%.
Eight states have already seen double-digit unemployment rates, which are calculated on a different survey than payroll numbers. As the economy deteriorates, and job hunters face difficulty finding new work, economists expect joblessness to top 10% nationwide by late 2009 or early 2010.
Michigan, battered by turmoil in the auto industry, reported the highest unemployment at 12.6%. Oregon followed at 12.1%, then South Carolina at 11.4%.
Only North Dakota and the District of Columbia saw unemployment rates decline for the month. Rates remained flat in Georgia, New York and Rhode Island.