Ongoing State Jobs Deficits—Keeping State Employment Gains in Perspective

Friday’s infographic from Stateline at the Pew Charitable Trusts shows year-over-year job creation at the state level. We track state-level job trends at the Economic Policy Institute also, paying particular attention to trends in job creation and state unemployment rates.

These trends are important—they provide point-in-time information and benchmark states’ progress getting back on track since the start of the Great Recession in 2007. Our monthly analyses track trends over the previous three months, six months and year. Many of our EARN state partners produce reports that drill down deeper in their respective state labor markets.

It’s important, though, to step back and look at these recent trends in the context of job loss during the Great Recession and population growth since the beginning of the recession.

This lens on state economies tells a very different, though equally important, story about what is happening in the labor market at the state level. We see, for instance, that despite the fact that Texas has led job creation, with 326,000 jobs gained between April 2012 and April 2013, it continues to have a jobs deficit of nearly 600,000 jobs. In other words, in order for Texas to return to pre-recession employment rates, the state would need to create another 594,100 jobs.

The national jobs deficit currently stands at 8.5 million jobs. That number includes the 2.4 million jobs lost since the beginning of the recession, and another 6.1 million jobs needed to return the nation to pre-recession employment rates.

As seen in Figure A, the only state to have gained back all the jobs lost during the Great Recession and to have created enough jobs to keep up with population growth is oil-rich North Dakota.

So, yes, celebrate the creation of jobs in states that are making progress, but do so in the context of the bigger picture, which unfortunately continues to show that there’s still “a lot of pain in the pipeline.” At the rate of job growth nationwide over the previous twelve-month period, we would still have a jobs deficit of 4.6 million jobs in May 2016.