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2.7%  Q1 GDP    4.57%  avg. 30-year mortgage     9.5%  Unemployment

May Unemployment Keeps Rising In Most States, D.C.

Unemployment continued to rise from April to May in D.C. and every state but two, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said this morning. Eight states hit historic highs.

Only two states -- Alaska and North Dakota -- added jobs from April to May.

D.C.'s May unemployment jumped from 9.9 percent to 10.7 percent.

Virginia's rate edged up from 6.8 percent to 7.1 percent.

Maryland's rate rose from 6.8 percent to 7.2 percent.

The official national unemployment rate is 9.4 percent. But as The Ticker explained last month, the real unemployment rate is much higher, because the official stats do not count those who have stopped looking for work and other jobless Americans. In May, that number stood at 16.4 percent, up from the April rate of 15.8 percent.

Unemployment is a lagging indicator of the health of the economy, meaning that unemployment can continue to rise even after the stock market starts going back up and GDP turns positive.

Here are the eight states that set unemployment records in May, and each state's percentage of jobless:

-- California: 11.5 percent.
-- Nevada: 11.3 percent.
-- North Carolina: 11.1 percent.
-- Oregon: 12.4 percent.
-- Rhode Island: 12.1 percent.
-- South Carolina: 12.1 percent.
-- Florida: 10.2 percent.
-- Georgia: 9.7 percent.

Amazingly, the unemployment rate in Michigan -- 14.1 percent -- is not a historic high for that state.

The high rates in overbuilt California and Nevada make sense to The Ticker.

But Oregon? What's the deal with Oregon, where a staggering one in six Oregonians receive food stamps?

Even Oregon is trying to figure it out, according to this story from the Portland Oregonian, from its ongoing "Jobless in Oregon" series:

"Oregon's unemployment remains No. 2 in the nation, and economists remain puzzled why.

For the second month in a row, Oregon recorded the country's second highest jobless rate -- 12 percent in April, seasonally adjusted -- behind Michigan, at 12.9 percent. Oregon also posted the largest jobless-rate increase of any state from a year earlier, U.S. officials reported Friday, up 6.4 percentage points from April 2008.

'We're all scratching our heads and trying to figure out how much of it is bad data and how much of it is the underlying economy,' said Bill Conerly, a Lake Oswego economist. 'What we're seeing is this surging labor force, whereas our lack of jobs isn't that different from other states.'

Retirees and nonworking spouses are apparently coming out of Oregon's woodwork to hunt for jobs. Their presence helps boost the size of the labor force, driving up unemployment. Oregon unemployment remained much higher than the national rate of 8.9 percent in April."

-- Frank Ahrens
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By Frank Ahrens  |  June 19, 2009; 11:15 AM ET
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment  
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Oregon? Let's count the reasons:

1) Legalized pot. When was the last time you saw potheads hard at work?

2) Californian immigrants. The state is overrun with Californians fleeing the high costs and problems of that state. California would have 15% unemployment or higher were it not for huge numbers leaving for Oregon, Washington, Idaho, etc.

3) An already weak economy. Oregon was bankrupt as a state before the housing bubble, and the housing bubble has only made things worse. Just a few years ago, people were actually going BACK to California, it was so bad in Oregon.

Posted by: blert | June 19, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

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