Fourth District Employment Conditions
The District’s unemployment rate shot up 0.6 percentage point to 8.1 percent for the month of January. The increase in the unemployment rate is attributed to an increase of the number of people unemployed (8.2 percent) and a decrease in the number of people employed (−1.0 percent). Compared to the national rate in January, the District’s unemployment rate (0.5 percentage point) stood higher, as it has been since early 2004. However, over the past year the gap between unemployment rates has all but vanished as a result of the current recession. Since the same time last year, the Fourth District and the national unemployment rates have both increased by 2.7 percentage points.
Unemployment rates vary considerably across counties in the Fourth District. Of the 169 counties that make up the District, 43 had an unemployment rate below the national average in January and 126 counties had rates higher than the national average. There were 58 District counties reporting double-digit unemployment rates, while only five 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. More recently, counties on the Ohio side of the Ohio-Pennsylvania border have seen spikes in unemployment rates.
The distribution of unemployment rates among Fourth District counties ranges from 5.7 percent to 14.0 percent, with a median county unemployment rate at 9.1 percent. Counties in Fourth District West Virginia and Pennsylvania generally populate the lower half of the distribution while Fourth District Kentucky and Ohio counties continue to dominate the upper half of the distribution. These county-level patterns are reflected in state-wide unemployment rates as Ohio and Kentucky have unemployment rates of 8.8 percent and 8.7 percent, respectively, compared to Pennsylvania’s 7.0 percent and West Virginia’s 5.3 percent.