Fourth District Employment Conditions
The District’s unemployment rate jumped 0.3 percentage point to 7.4 percent for the month of December. The increase in the unemployment rate reflects an increase of the number of people unemployed (4.7 percent) and a decrease in the number of people employed (−0.5 percent). The District’s unemployment rate was higher than the nation’s (by 0.2 percentage point), as it has been since early 2004. However, the gap between the two has narrowed over the past year as the current recession has continued. Since this time last year, the District’s unemployment rate has increased 2.0 percentage points, while the nation’s has increased 2.3 percentage points.
Unemployment rates differ considerably across counties in the Fourth District. Of the 169 counties that make up the District, 50 had an unemployment rate below the national average in December and 119 counties had rate higher than the national average. There were 32 District counties reporting double-digit unemployment rates, while 9 counties had an unemployment rate below 6.0 percent. Rural Appalachian counties continue to experience higher levels of unemployment, as do counties along the Ohio-Michigan border.
The distribution of unemployment rates among Fourth District counties ranges from 5.2 percent to 13.1 percent, with a median county unemployment rate of 8.0 percent. Counties in Fourth District West Virginia and Pennsylvania generally populate the lower half of the distribution, while Fourth District Kentucky and Ohio counties are dominant in the upper half. These county-level patterns are reflected in statewide unemployment rates. The states of Ohio and Kentucky both have unemployment rates of 7.8 percent, compared to Pennsylvania’s 6.7 percent and West Virginia’s 4.9 percent.
The distribution of changes in unemployment rates from December 2007 to December 2009 shows that the median county unemployment rate increased 2.0 percentage points. Year over year, 55 percent of Fourth District Kentucky counties and 56 percent of the counties in Ohio experienced unemployment rate increases in excess of 2.0 percentage points. However, Fourth District Kentucky and West Virginia have actually seen some county unemployment rates fall over the same period. Fourth District Pennsylvania saw unemployment rate increases ranging from 1.0 percent to 3.3 percent.
Mapping the changes in county unemployment rates highlights the dispersion of unemployment rate changes across Fourth District counties. Over the past year, northwest Ohio has experienced significant increases in unemployment rates across all counties. Counties along the Ohio-Kentucky border have also seen unemployment rates increase considerably.