Fourth District Employment Conditions, September
The District’s unemployment rate remained steady at 6.9 percent for the month of September. The flat unemployment rate is attributed to relatively small changes in both the number of people unemployed (-0.3 percent) and the number of people employed (0.0 percent). The District’s rate was again higher than the nation’s in September (by 0.8 percentage point), as it has consistently been since early 2004. Since this time last year, both the District’s rate and the national rate have increased 1.5 percentage points.
There are considerable differences in unemployment rates across counties in the Fourth District. Of the 169 counties that make up the District, 29 had an unemployment rate below the national average in September, and 140 had one higher. Nineteen counties reported double-digit unemployment rates, while two counties had an unemployment rate below 5.0 percent. Rural Appalachian counties continue to experience higher levels of unemployment, while those counties along the Ohio-Michigan border have begun to see more elevated rates of unemployment.
The distribution of unemployment rates among Fourth District counties ranges from 4.1 percent to 12.2 percent, with the median at 7.5 percent. Counties in Fourth District West Virginia and Pennsylvania have generally lower unemployment rates than counties in Fourth District Kentucky and Ohio. These county-level patterns are reflected in statewide unemployment rates. Ohio’s unemployment rate is 7.2, Kentucky’s is 7.1 percent, Pennsylvania’s is 5.7 percent, and West Virginia’s is 4.5 percent.
Similar to the wide differences in unemployment rates observed across Fourth District counties, employment growth has also varied markedly. Year to date, the median county saw the number of people employed decrease by 1.4 percent with about one-third of the District’s counties experiencing declines exceeding 2.0 percent. To put this in perspective, the number of people employed fell by only 0.5 percent for the median U.S. county over the same period. Given the unemployment rates reported above, it is not too surprising that Ohio and Kentucky experienced relatively weak employment growth relative to Pennsylvania and West Virginia. What is mildly surprisingly is how well Fourth District Pennsylvania counties have fared given the difficult macroeconomic environment. A full 90 percent of Fourth District Pennsylvania counties experienced positive employment growth, with five counties having growth rates exceeding 3 percent.