Fourth District Employment Conditions, March 2009
The District’s unemployment rate increased 0.5 percentage point to 9.3 percent for the month of March. The increase in the unemployment rate is attributed to an increase of the number of people unemployed (5.4 percent) and a decrease in the number of people employed (−0.8 percent). The District’s unemployment rate was again higher than the nation’s (0.8 percentage point), as it has been consistently since early 2004. Since the recession began, the nation’s monthly unemployment rate has averaged 0.6 percentage point lower than the Fourth District unemployment rate. Year over year, the Fourth District and the national unemployment rates have increased 3.5 percentage points and 3.4 percentage points, respectively.
There are significant differences in unemployment rates across counties in the Fourth District. Of the 169 counties that make up the District, 36 had an unemployment rate below the national rate in March, and 133 counties had a higher rate. There were 92 District counties reporting double-digit unemployment rates, 63 percent of which were in the state of Ohio. Rural counties continue to experience higher levels of unemployment, as do counties along the Ohio-Michigan border. More recently, counties on the Ohio side of the Ohio-Pennsylvania border have seen spikes in unemployment rates. Outside of Pennsylvania, lower levels of unemployment are limited to the interior of Ohio or the Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati corridor.
Unemployment rates across Fourth District counties range from 6.4 percent (Allegheny County, Pennsylvania) to 15.2 percent (Williams County, Ohio), with a median county unemployment rate of 10.2 percent. Counties in Fourth District Pennsylvania generally populate the lower half of the distribution of unemployment rates across counties, while the few Fourth District counties in West Virginia moved to the middle of the distribution in March. Fourth District Kentucky and Ohio counties continue to dominate the upper half of the distribution. These county-level patterns are reflected in statewide unemployment rates, as Ohio and Kentucky have unemployment rates of 9.7 percent and 9.8 percent, respectively, compared to Pennsylvania’s 7.8 percent and West Virginia’s 6.9 percent.
Unemployment rates vary now more across Fourth District counties than they did earlier this decade. Increased dispersion of unemployment rates supports the notion that labor markets in some Fourth District areas are holding up relatively well, while other areas have experienced much higher levels of unemployment.