Fourth District Employment Conditions
The District’s unemployment rate remained steady at 7.0 percent for the month of November. The stable unemployment rate reflects an increase of the number of people unemployed (0.5 percent), a decrease in the number of people employed (−0.4 percent) and a decrease in the labor force (−0.4 percent). As it has consistently been since early 2004, the District’s unemployment rate was higher than the nation’s (0.3 percentage point). Since this time last year, the Fourth District’s unemployment rate has increased 1.7 percentage points, while the nation’s has increased 2.0 percentage points.
There are considerable differences in unemployment rates 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 October and 119 counties had rate higher than the national average. There were 24 District counties that reported double-digit unemployment rates, while only one county had an unemployment rate below 5.0 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 4.6 percent to 12.4 percent, with a median county unemployment rate of 7.5 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 of the distribution. These county–level patterns are reflected in state-wide unemployment rates. The states of Ohio and Kentucky have unemployment rates of 7.3 and 7.0 percent, respectively, compared to Pennsylvania’s 6.1 percent and West Virginia’s 4.6 percent.
Continued unemployment insurance claims serve as an alternative measure of local labor market conditions and reflect the number of persons receiving unemployment benefits. At the national level, average weekly claims have increased 33.1 percent since the beginning of 2008. However, Fourth District states have seen continued unemployment insurance claims grow at an even faster pace. Kentucky has seen the largest increase (54.6 percent), while Ohio’s and Pennsylvania’s growth in continued claims has been somewhat slower (41.8 percent and 38.5 percent, respectively). Moreover, much of the rise in continued claims has occurred in the past four months, indicating an increase in the rate of deterioration of Fourth District labor markets.