Guest Column: Statewide Growth and Decline Since the End of the “Great Recession”

By Brian Pittelko, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research

Although the “Great Recession” has been over since July 2009, overall job growth in the U.S. has been modest. Of the 50 states and D.C., 11 continue to have job loss, 18 have experienced less than 1% growth, and the remaining 22 have had growth between 1% and 6%. The table on the right shows the top five and bottom five states in terms of job growth during the post-recessionary expansion period.

Notice that in the top five, three states are relatively small. North Dakota, Alaska and Vermont each have between 300,000 and 400,000 persons employed during the period. Texas’ growth alone represents 300,000 people.  Different industries are driving the growth in these states. Vermont’s and Michigan’s manufacturing industries are rebounding slightly, with growth rates above the national average.  North Dakota’s mining and logging industries are some of the state’s primary drivers of growth. Retail and hospitality have been growing for each state except Michigan, and wholesale trade has increased for all five.

On the other end of the spectrum, the bottom five have continued to lose jobs since the ostensible end of the “Great Recession.” Manufacturing growth in each bottom-five state is worse than the national average, and wholesale and retail trade growth are below average for everyone except New Mexico. Construction jobs are still declining nationally, and in these states the decline has outpaced the national average.

Overall, the growth portrait is very confusing. Nationally, the economy is expanding, but not every state is feeling that change. Even among industries, the story is not consistent. Retail trade job growth would seem to be a simple indicator of growth or decline. However, retail trade growth is below average in Michigan, despite overall job growth and above average in New Mexico even while their total employment has shrunk. Manufacturing is still declining in Texas, despite robust overall growth. Hospitality jobs are growing in four of the five states, for both the top and bottom states.  These inconsistent growth factors make it difficult to determine a clear story of post-recessionary job growth across the country, or elucidate why some states fared better than others.

Brian Pittelko can be reached at Pittelko@upjohn.org. Originally posted on the Upjohn Institute blog.