N.H. and Alabama defy US trend, reduce unemployment
WASHINGTON (AP) – The national unemployment rate has been stuck above 9.5 percent for more than a year, yet some states have made strides. Two states with little else in common – New Hampshire and Alabama – have seen the steepest drops in unemployment in the 12 months that ended in November.
New Hampshire has added jobs in a broad range of industries, including manufacturing, education and health care, and leisure and hospitality.
The state’s 5.4 percent unemployment rate is fourth-lowest in the country, the Labor Department said Friday in a report on state unemployment. A year ago, its rate was 6.9 percent.
Alabama is benefiting from a growing automotive manufacturing base. It still has an unemployment rate of 9 percent, though that’s down sharply from 10.9 percent in November 2009.
New Hampshire’s growth means it’s nearly regained all the jobs it lost during the downturn, said Dennis Delay, an economist at the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy, a think tank. The nation as a whole has generated about 1 million net jobs in the past year, after losing nearly 8.4 million in 2008 and 2009.
Delay credits a variety of factors, including the state’s low tax burden – it has no income or sales tax – and the Obama administration’s stimulus package. The federal stimulus money funded infrastructure and energy conservation projects. The state has gained 1,500 construction jobs in the past year.
Alabama, meanwhile, has benefited from higher auto production as U.S. auto sales have recovered since the recession. Auto sales rose 17 percent in November compared with a year earlier, according to Autodata Corp.
Honda, Mercedes and Toyota all have factories in the state, and there are about 100 parts suppliers, said Keivan Deravi, an economics professor at Auburn University in Montgomery.
In addition, the German steelmaker ThyssenKrupp recently built a factory in Mobile to supply auto makers in Alabama and surrounding states.
“We are riding the auto-demand surge,” Deravi said. “All in all, we can do better, but we’ll take this.”
Nationwide, unemployment rates rose in 21 states last month, the Labor Department said, the highest number to report an increase since August. The report is a reminder of the job market’s struggle to rebound even as the economy is improving.
Unemployment rates fell in 15 states in November and remained the same in 14 states. That’s the fewest to see a drop in unemployment since August.
Georgia and Idaho endured the largest increases in unemployment. Georgia’s rate rose to 10.1 percent from 9.8 percent. Idaho’s jumped to 9.4 percent from 9.1 percent.
Michigan and Pennsylvania saw the biggest declines in unemployment last month. Michigan’s rate fell to 12.4 percent from 12.8 percent. Pennsylvania’s declined to 8.6 percent from 8.8 percent.
Despite its decline, Michigan still has the nation’s second-highest unemployment rate. Nevada has the highest rate at 14.3 percent.
North Dakota reported the lowest rate, at 3.8 percent, in November. South Dakota and Nebraska have the next-lowest unemployment rates, at 4.5 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively.
The nationwide unemployment rate rose in November to 9.8 percent from 9.6 percent, the department said earlier this month. Employers added a net total of only 39,000 jobs.
But many economists expect hiring to pick up in the coming months. Retail sales rose in November for the fifth straight month, factories are busier and fewer people are applying for first-time unemployment benefits.