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The New Economy

Which state is the biggest loser in jobs?

A dozen US states have fewer people working than at any time since the 1990s. For the biggest loser, the jobs bust has lasted since the 1980s.

By / March 10, 2010

Men waited outside the Staffing Network in southwest Detroit this past October. Michigan, one of the dozen biggest losers in terms of jobs, hasn't seen so few people on the job since Ronald Reagan was president.

Carlos Osorio/AP/File

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For a dozen states in America, the 2000s have been a bust in terms of employment.

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They started 2010 with fewer people at work than in 2000, according to revised figures released by the US Department of Labor on Tuesday.

For some states (see chart at left for complete list), the job bust has lasted just over a decade. The last time California and Delaware had so few workers on the job, people were worried about Y2K (late 1999).

For one state, the bust has lasted a generation. Not since Ronald Reagan was president (in August 1987) has Michigan seen total employment so low: 4.1 million.

IN PICTURES: Which state is the biggest loser in employment?

The states are a varied lot. They come from the West (California) and the East (Delaware), the Upper Midwest (Wisconsin) and the South (Alabama). They are rich (Massachusetts) and poor (West Virginia). Large and small.

Only 4 of the 12 states – Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, and Michigan – saw employment improve between December and January, according the Labor Department data.

Across the whole country, workers' climb out of the great recession looks to be long and arduous. But for workers in these states, the first hurdle will simply be reaching the employment levels they had a decade or two ago.

IN PICTURES: Which state is the biggest loser in employment?

It may take the US a long time to dig out of unemployment. For a dozen states, it could take even longer.

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