June 19, 2013
Kyle Fee and Nelson Oliver
As of March 2013, the unemployment rate for the Fourth District stood at 7.3 percent after spiking to 7.8 percent in January. Since March 2012, the rate has fallen 1.4 percent, and since the end of the recession in June of 2009, it has fallen 2.7 percent. Compared to the national unemployment rate, the District’s rate has tended to be slightly higher, but it now rests below the national rate of 7.8 percent.
County-level unemployment rates across the Fourth District ranged from a low of 4.4 percent in Mercer County, Ohio, to a high of 17.5 percent in Magoffin County, Kentucky. Since the last report in December, the median unemployment rate has remained unchanged at 7.8 percent. Despite notable declines in the Fourth District’s overall unemployment since the end of the recession, 68 percent of the counties in the District (115 of 169) have seen their unemployment rates increase from December to March.
County-level patterns often reflect statewide unemployment rates. For example, as of March 2013, the unemployment rate for Ohio was 7.1 percent, for Pennsylvania 7.6 percent, Kentucky 8.0 percent, and West Virginia 7.0 percent. Annual changes in the states’ unemployment rates ranged from a 0.3 percentage point increase in Pennsylvania to a 0.3 percentage point decline in Ohio. Of the 169 counties that make up the District, 78 (46 percent) have an unemployment rate at or below the national level. Conversely, 22 percent of the District’s counties have a double-digit unemployment rate, which is actually a slight increase compared to March 2012. Geographically, unemployment remains the highest in remote areas of Ohio and Kentucky, while rural Pennsylvania has maintained a stronger labor market.
Labor force growth continues to be sluggish both nationally and within the District. On the national level, the size of the civilian labor force—those employed or looking for work—has exceeded pre-recession levels, but the Fourth District still struggles to make significant gains to its labor force.
During the recession and ongoing recovery, per capita incomes dipped sharply for the nation as a whole and most states within the District. As of fourth quarter 2012 all Fourth District states surpassed pre-recession levels and have maintained a positive trajectory. While West Virginia experienced the strongest income growth during this period, it also had the lowest per capita income level, averaging $28,934. For comparison, the U.S. rate was $36,504. Notwithstanding, national income growth has not fared as well as states in the District and is still yet to reach pre-recession levels. This slower growth in national per capita incomes may be due to stronger population growth compared to District states. Since 2000 the US has averaged nearly 1 percent annual population growth, while Fourth District states have averaged only about 0.30 percent annual population increases.