By most accounts, the U.S. economy got off to a slow start this year as overseas markets struggled and a harsh winter held back some employers from hiring.
At the state level, updated job estimates published by the Labor Department Wednesday depict sizable variation in how economies have fared so far this year. A few states out West enjoyed particularly strong growth, even though the economy sputtered earlier, while others have changed little in recent months.
Average monthly job totals for January through April, when compared with the last four months of 2014, rose in all but three states. In seven states, the increase was greater than 1 percent. (See totals below)
Idaho recorded the largest percentage increase over the four-month period (+2.2 percent), followed by Utah (+1.8 percent). Washington state also enjoyed steady job gains, with average monthly employment up by about 40,000 positions (+1.3 percent).
A handful of other states experienced very meager growth to start the year. In West Virginia, Louisiana and Maine, average monthly employment declined slightly. April unemployment rates were highest in Nevada (7.1 percent) and West Virginia (7.0 percent).
Much of how state economies are performing is due to the individual sectors making up their employment base, as several industries experienced weak growth to start the year. Nationally, construction and manufacturing employment expanded little over the first four months. The same is true of government employment (local, state and federal), which similarly remained essentially unchanged since January. Meanwhile, employment estimates for professional and business services, along with education and health services, are both up about 150,000 since January.
The national recovery slowed in March with exceptionally weak job gains. Revised estimates indicate an addition of just 85,000 jobs, the lowest monthly tally in nearly three years. Some economists attributed the slowdown to harsh winter weather that may have hit construction and other sectors particularly hard. The latest figures, though, suggest the economy added 223,000 in April, indicating the weak showing for March have only been a temporary blip.
The following table shows how states' average monthly nonfarm employment for 2015 compares to the last four months of 2014:
|State||% Change||9/2014-12/2014 Average Employment||1/2015-4/2015 Average Employment|
|District of Columbia||0.21||759,525||761,100|