Unemployment rate drops in 21 states

Rick Bowmer/AP
Sharail Page searched a job board in Portland, Ore., Thursday. At 12.0 percent, Oregon's unemployment rate is the highest of any state except Michigan.

Rays of economic hope are beginning to break over several states as their unemployment rates drop.

In all, 21 states saw their jobless rates fall in April, according to new government data released Friday. These declines suggest that recessionary forces are beginning to ease in some areas of the United States even while they're strengthening in others.

Show-Me State shows the way

Leading the way toward recovery was Missouri, which saw a dramatic 0.6 percentage point fall in its unemployment rate (from 8.7 percent in March to 8.1 percent in April). Other states with large declines were Alaska (down 0.4 points), Mississippi (down 0.3), and Nebraska (down 0.3), according to the US Department of Labor.

Those figures were in sharp contrast to the unemployment-rate increases in 18 states, led by West Virginia (up 0.7 points), Ohio (up 0.5), and Rhode Island (up 0.5). Rhode Island, Georgia, and South Carolina now have the highest unemployment rates they've seen in 33 years of federal record keeping.

Michigan has the highest unemployment in the nation (12.9 percent) followed by Oregon (12.0 percent).

Monitor analysis

The improvement in unemployment appears particularly striking in Maine and Mississippi, according to a separate Monitor analysis of initial jobless claims benefits, which includes some data for May.

Two-thirds of the states are seeing at least twice as many workers file for jobless benefits as they saw during the same period in 2005, a nonrecession year. But Maine and Mississippi's four-week averages were up only 65 percent and 59 percent respectively. More important, Maine's fall in claims from January to May was on par with the normal seasonal decline it saw in 2005. In Mississippi, the snapback was faster today than it was in 2005.

That's important evidence that both states' reported drops in unemployment in April were not a one-month fluke. In most states, this year's decline in jobless has lagged the 2005 norm.

__________Is your state beginning to show signs of recovery? Comment below or Twitter us.

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