Which States Have Recovered the Most Lost Jobs?

Last month marked the four-year anniversary of the end of the recession. While employment has returned to pre-recession levels in a few states, most are still far from recovering lost jobs.
by | July 22, 2013 AT 3:00 AM
A hiring sign at an Office Depot in Mountain View, Calif.
AP/Paul Sakuma

While employment has steadily climbed since the recovery began, only a select few states have seen jobs return to pre-recession levels so far.

Last month marked the four-year anniversary of the end of the recession in June 2009. Updated Labor Department estimates published Friday show the extent to which states are regaining their economic footing.

The U.S. has recovered 5.3 million jobs since job losses bottomed out, still about 2.2 million below pre-recession levels.

North Dakota experienced a 20.6 percent gain in employment since the recovery began, by far the nation’s largest increase. The state's population also jumped, accordingly.

Texas (8.6 percent), Utah (7.8 percent) and Indiana (6.4 percent) recorded the next-highest percentage increases over the four-year period.

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Texas and California are deadlocked in a well-publicized battle for jobs, with Gov. Rick Perry making numerous visits to California and even airing radio ads courting the state’s employers. The two states collectively added nearly 1.4 million jobs since the recovery began, accounting for more than a quarter of the nation’s total job growth.

Looking back further, though, most states still have a long way to go before payrolls return to pre-recession levels.

The following map shows the extent to which each state recovered, with states shaded based on the percentage change in nonfarm employment since the recession began in January 2008 (the National Bureau of Economic Research determined the economy peaked in December 2007). Click a state to display its data.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, nonfarm seasonally-adjusted employment. Zoom out to view Alaska and Hawaii.

As shown, only 14 states and the District of Columbia have fully recovered jobs dating back to 2008. Of those, only oil-rich Texas, North Dakota and Alaska recorded notable job growth exceeding a couple percentage points.

It's important to note this doesn’t take into account more people entering the labor force. State economies didn't all peak or bottom out at the same time either, so the data represents snapshots since the official start of the recession.

As we’ve reported previously, states with abundant natural resources or economies mostly dependent on agriculture are faring best. States like New York, Massachusetts and Colorado also have seen employment return to pre-recession levels, absent changes in population.

Nevada’s unemployment rate remains the country’s highest at 9.6 percent. The state also has registered the largest percentage drop in employment since the recession began (-9.8 percent), followed by Arizona (-6.3 percent) and Alabama (-5.2 percent).

Nationally, payroll employment increased by 195,000 in June, mirroring the average monthly gain of about 182,000 over the past year. At this rate, the recovery will drag on much longer -- another six to eight years, by most estimates.

The recovery thus far is especially bleak when assessing the share of the working-age population currently employed.

Heidi Shierholz at the Economic Policy Institute examined the employment-to-population ratio for these individuals -- age 25 to 54 -- finding the most recent jobs data indicates the country has made little progress over the four years of the recovery. The ratio stood at 75.9 percent last month, only one-fifth of the way to making up for the low reached during the Great Recession.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, seasonally-adjusted data