The States That Recovered Most (and Least) from the Recession

NYSE-flagDecember marked the five-year anniversary of the official beginning of the Great Recession - the most severe economic contraction the United States has experienced since the Great Depression. The recession may have officially ended in June 2009, but the economy still has a long way to go before it returns to normal, and unemployment remains well above prerecession levels.

In November 2007, the month before the recession officially began, there were an estimated 7.3 million unemployed people in the 50 states. The national unemployment rate was 4.7% at the time. In October 2009, the national unemployment rate was 10%, and there were roughly 15 million jobless people in the states. As of November 2012, the national jobless rate was 7.7%, and there were still 11.3 million unemployed people in the states.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed the unemployment rates in the 50 states in recent years, considering prerecession, peak and current unemployment. While change in unemployment can reflect economic growth or stagnation, it can also be misleading. To account for this, we also considered other factors in our analysis of each state's recovery over the past five years. Based on change in unemployment from peak to current, we identified the states that recovered the most and least from the recession.

The recession impacted every state in the country, but the damage done varied from light, as in the Dakotas, to moderate, as in Maryland and New Mexico, to extreme, as in Nevada, California and Michigan. Similarly, after the economy bottomed out, not every state recovered at the same rate.

Some states have made considerable progress, adding hundreds of thousands of new jobs and reducing unemployment substantially. Several states that were barely hit did not have far to recover and remain in excellent shape relative to the rest of the country. Other states have made almost no progress, with unemployment rates close to their recession peaks. Based on our review, most states followed one of three paths of decline and recovery since the recession began.

The first group saw massive job losses and generally severe declines in both their housing markets and GDP during the recession. These include states hit particularly hard by the collapse of the housing market, such as Arizona, Nevada, and Florida, and states that have struggled for years because of their reliance on the contracting manufacturing sector, such as Michigan and Ohio. In this first group, the unemployment rate has improved substantially, but still remains well above the national rate.

In states such as Indiana, which belongs to the first group, there appears to be evidence of a recovery, but the data should be examined carefully. While the jobless rate is down by nearly three percentage points from its worst level, this is due as much to people giving up looking for work or retiring as it is to new jobs.

In states such as Michigan, which had the highest unemployment rate in the country during the recession, there is evidence of a true recovery. The state was in the top 10 for GDP growth in each of the past two years and "has seen an increase in manufacturing employment over the year," Bureau of Labor Statistics Chief Economist Martin Kohli told 24/7 Wall St. The real rebound in the automobile industry, Kohli added, "has made Michigan's recovery stronger than it might otherwise have been."

The second group of states were barely hit by the recession. They include North Dakota and Wyoming, which were bolstered by a strong energy sector when other state economies were failing. These states' unemployment rates have hardly increased, and North Dakota's has even returned to its prerecession level. While some of these states are ranked lower on our list, this is because the unemployment rate had to drop relatively little to get close to prerecession levels.

The final group of states have been unable to show any meaningful recovery. These states, which include New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, all saw unemployment rise above 9%. However, unlike Michigan and Ohio, which have seen substantial declines in unemployment recently, the economies of these states continues to flounder. New York and New Jersey's unemployment rates were actually increasing for much of 2012, even as the national unemployment rate was falling.

Kohli explained that each of these states have failed to recover for different reasons. In the case of New Jersey, the casino industry in Atlantic City, which is a big part of the state's economy, was badly damaged by the recession and continues to struggle. And Superstorm Sandy will probably only make matters worse in the long run.

Based on monthly unemployment data reported by the BLS, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the recovery progress in each of the 50 states. Each state is ranked by the percentage point decline from its highest unemployment rate during the recession. We also reviewed, by state, the number of employed and unemployed people in the labor force, as well as the change in average weekly earnings by state between November 2007 and October 2012. In addition to BLS data, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed home price change and projection data from Fiserv as of the second quarter of 2012. From the U.S. Census Bureau, we reviewed income and poverty data. We also reviewed gross domestic product change by state for each year during the recession from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the most recent being 2011.

1. Michigan
> Unemployment decline from peak: 5.1 percentage points
> Peak unemployment:  14.2%
> Current unemployment: 9.1% (6th highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 2.3% (6th highest)

In November 2007, when the nation was on the brink of the worst economic recession in years, Michigan had by many measures the worst economy in the U.S. The state's unemployment rate was more than a full percentage point higher than any other state. And once the recession hit, Michigan's already struggling economy was not spared. Unemployment nearly doubled, peaking at 14.2% by August 2009, the highest rate any state reached during the recession. In 2008, the state's economy contracted by 6%, more than any other state in the country. In 2009, Michigan's GDP again shrank more than any other state, this time by nearly 9%. While the state has since shown some substantial signs of recovery, it still has a long way to go. Michigan has been in the top 10 for GDP growth in each of the past two years. And while its unemployment rate remains high, it is now better than five other states after declining 5.1 percentage points from its peak. According to BLS Chief Economist Martin Kohli, Michigan's economy has been boosted by the resurgent American automobile industry.

2. Ohio
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 3.7 percentage points
> Peak unemployment: 10.6%
> Current unemployment: 6.9% (tied-21st lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 1.1% (23rd lowest)

Ohio's unemployment rate nearly doubled during the recession, from 5.7% in November 2007 to 10.6% in July 2009. In less than two years, nearly 300,000 residents lost their jobs. As of October there were more than 100,000 fewer manufacturing jobs and almost 80,000 fewer jobs in the trade, transportation and utilities sector than five years before. But recently the state's job market has begun to rebound as the unemployment rate has decreased by 3.7 percentage points from its peak of 10.6% to 6.9% as of October. The 2012 Obama Campaign touted the president's decision to save the auto industry, saying it "meant one thing for Ohio: jobs." The campaign noted that "1 in 8 Ohioans have been supported by the auto industry." The recovery, however, comes with a caveat: between November 2007 and October 2012 Ohio's labor force shrank by 3% - more than almost any state.

3. South Carolina
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 3.4 percentage points
> Peak unemployment: 12.0%
> Current unemployment: 8.6% (tied-12th highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 1.2% (24th highest)

Through October, South Carolina's unemployment rate fell 3.4 percentage points from its all-time high of 12% during the last two months of 2009. Since then, the state began a slow recovery. By October 2012, in just under three years time, another 75,000 workers in the state had found employment. Manufacturing jobs, which steadily declined through the 2000s, have also slowly recovered in the state in recent years. Mass layoffs, defined by the BLS as occurring when at least 50 new unemployment insurance claims are filed against an employer in a five-week period, declined from a high of 493 in 2009 to 225 in 2011. In the first 10 months of 2012 there were just 147 such events.

4. Utah
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 3.1 percentage points
> Peak unemployment: 8.3%
> Current unemployment: 5.2% (tied-5th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 2.0% (8th highest)

In November 2007, Utah had the nation's third-lowest unemployment rate of 2.8%. Reaching 8.3% in January 2010, the state's unemployment rate fell to 5.2% in October, again one of the lowest in the nation. However, as of October, the state still had not recovered many of the jobs it had lost as the total number of employed workers that month was still 3.5% less than it was in November 2007. Over the 12 months through October, Utah's job market has improved. During that time, the state added jobs, especially in the financial, information, and professional and business services sectors, where the number of jobs rose 5.3%, 9.2% and 6.5% respectively.

5. Oregon
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 3.0 percentage points
> Peak unemployment: 11.6%
> Current unemployment: 8.6% (tied-12th highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 4.7% (2nd highest)

Just before the recession hit, in November 2007, Oregon's unemployment rate of 5.3% was one of the highest in the country. That month, there were roughly 102,000 unemployed people looking for work in the state. By May 2009, Oregon's unemployment rate had reached 11.6% of the labor force, and more than 230,000 people were looking for work. While the state's unemployment rate remains high, it is now a full three percentage points lower than its peak rate two years ago. In each of the past two years, the state's GDP growth rate has been among the highest in the country. In 2011, Oregon's 4.7% economic growth well outpaced the national rate of 1.5%.

6. Florida
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.9 percentage points
> Peak unemployment: 11.4%
> Current unemployment: 8.5% (14th highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 0.5% (14th lowest)

Florida's unemployment rate reached a historic high in February 2010 when 11.4% of the workforce was unemployed. This was a 6.9 percentage point increase from November 2007, when the state's unemployment rate was just 4.5%. Only one other state, Nevada, had a higher increase in unemployment in that time. A large part of the state's decline came as the result of its collapsing housing market. From the second quarter of 2012, home prices are down by 43.8%, more than all but two other states. Since reaching its peak in February 2010, Florida's unemployment rate has fallen by 2.9 percentage points, one of the largest declines in the nation. But the new jobs have not led to a meaningful increase in weekly earnings, which have risen just 1.4% from November 2007 to October 2012 - less than all but two other states.

7. Indiana
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.8 percentage points (tied-7th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 10.8%
> Current unemployment: 8.0% (21st highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 1.2% (25th highest)

Indiana lost more than 6% of its jobs between November 2007 and October 2012, the third-largest decline in the country. The state's unemployment rate has since declined by nearly 2.8 percentage points. Unfortunately for Indiana, this had less to do with added jobs and more to do with fewer people looking for work in the state. Since before the recession, the number of people in the labor force has fallen by more than 85,000, or 2.6%, the third-highest decline in the country. And as of October, 185,000 fewer people worked in the state than five years before. But there is some good news for the state. According to a survey conducted by the Kelley School of Business Indianapolis, most Indiana manufacturers have stabilized and plan on growing and investing in the coming months.

8. Tennessee
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.8 percentage points (tied-7th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 11.0%
> Current unemployment: 8.2% (tied-16th highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 1.9% (13th highest)

From November 2007 to April 2009, Tennessee's unemployment rate doubled from 5.3% to 10.6%. Two months later, the unemployment rate peaked at 11%. But recently the state's labor market has recovered. The number of manufacturing jobs, which steadily declined between 2002 and 2009 has rebounded somewhat, rising 3% over the 12 months ending in October. Tennessee's unemployment rate as of October was 8.2% - 2.8 percentage points below the state's peak rate, but still 2.9 percentage points above its November 2007 rate. The state has tried to grow its economy by limiting taxes - it had the third lowest state and local tax burden in fiscal 2010 at 7.7%.

9. Missouri
> Unemployment decline from recession peak:  2.8 percentage points (tied-7th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 9.7%
> Current unemployment: 6.9% (tied-21st lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 0% (8th lowest)

Missouri weathered the recession especially well. The state's unemployment rate rose from 5.3% in November 2007 to 6.9% in October, after peaking at 9.7% in August 2009. This was among the nation's overall smallest increases over the five-year period. Between August 2009 and October 2012, the state added a net of 20,000 jobs. Although most sectors did not grow much, one that recovered especially well was professional and business services. Over the course of 12 months ending in October 2012, the sector added over 21,000 jobs. The number of mass layoffs also declined from 551 in 2009 to 375 last year, with just 224 such events in the first 10 months of 2012. Despite these improvements, Missouri has struggled to boost its economy in recent years, with GDP growth below the national average rate in each year from 2009 to 2011.

10. Arizona
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.7 percentage points
> Peak unemployment: 10.8%
> Current unemployment: 8.1% (tied-18th highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 1.5% (18th highest)

Arizona's unemployment rate rose from 4% in November 2007 to a recession high of 10.8% two years later. From November 2009 until March 2010, the state's unemployment rate remained unchanged. Through October 2012, the state had lost more than 100,000 construction jobs - nearly half the sector - over a five-year period. However, the labor market has improved somewhat from the height of the recession. As of October, the state's unemployment rate was 2.7 percentage points lower than its peak rate, while average weekly earnings were up 17% from November 2007, the seventh-highest increase in the nation.

11. Illinois
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.6 percentage points
> Peak unemployment: 11.4%
> Current unemployment: 8.8% (9th highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 1.3% (20th highest)

In October, Illinois had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country at 8.8%. While this was very high, the state had a double-digit rate just 12 months before. In that time, the state added more than 120,000 new jobs. Among the sectors with the most growth between October 2011 and October 2012 was manufacturing where the number of jobs rose 3.6%. As of October, the sector employed nearly 600,000 workers in the state. In the coming months, several thousand jobs in Illinois are at risk due to the potential closing of the Mississippi River to navigation, specifically between St. Louis, Mo. and Cairo, Ill., because of low water levels caused by drought in the Midwest.

12. Minnesota
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.5 percentage points (tied-12th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 8.3%
> Current unemployment: 5.8% (13th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 1.2% (23rd highest)

Minnesota entered the recession with the 18th-highest unemployment rate in the country. As of last month, it had the 13th-lowest rate in the country. The state's unemployment rate is now just one percentage point higher than it was before the downturn, making it one of just four states to be within one percentage point of their pre-recession rates. Of the major industries, only the mining and logging industry has lost jobs since 2009. Since mid-2007, Minnesota's housing market lost 28% of its value, a bigger decline than all but a handful of states. Most of that decline, however, was during the first years of the recession. Since 2009, home values are up by 2.6%, and since 2011, they are up nearly 5%.

13. Alabama
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.5 percentage points (tied-12th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 10.6%
> Current unemployment: 8.1% (tied-18th highest)
> GDP growth 2011: -0.8% (3rd lowest)

During the recession, Alabama's unemployment rate rose from 3.7% in November 2007 to a high of 10.6% in the fall of 2009. At 6.9 percentage points, this was a larger increase than nearly every other state in the nation. In recent years, the state's job market has improved. The unemployment rate in Alabama has fallen by 2.5 percentage points from the peak. Still, some remain in jeopardy. Governor Robert Bentley has warned Alabama will lose 24,000 jobs if the federal government doesn't reach a fiscal cliff deal. Pay also did not increase much over the nearly five-year period, with average weekly earnings just 2.2% higher in October 2012 than in November 2007.

14. Nevada
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.5 percentage points (tied-12th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 14.0%
> Current unemployment: 11.5% (the highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 1.2% (21st highest)

Nevada's unemployment rate rose from 5.1% in November 2007 to 14% in October 2010.Meanwhile, home prices plummeted 56.8% from the second quarter of 2007 to the second quarter of 2012. Driven by the collapse in the housing market, Nevada's real GDP contracted 3.2% in 2008 and another 7.6% in 2009 - both among the worst figures in the U.S. In some regards, the state's economy has improved. Its GDP grew by 1.2% last year - better than more than half of all states, although slightly worse than the U.S. overall. However, as of October, the state's unemployment rate remained well above all other states at 11.5%. Fiserv projects home values will keep declining through the second quarter of 2013.

15. California
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.3 percentage points (tied-15th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 12.4%
> Current unemployment: 10.1% (3rd highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 2.0% (10th highest)

In October, California was one of just three states with an unemployment rate above 10%. This rate was 4.4 percentage points higher than California's unemployment rate in November 2007 of 5.7%, which was already one of the nation's highest that month.One of the primary causes of the California's economic decline was the state's housing crisis. Between mid-2007 and mid-2012 home prices fell 41%, more than all but three other states.  Although the unemployment rate has steadily declined since reaching its peak of 12.4% in October 2010, the state has yet to replace nearly half a million jobs that were lost between November 2007 and October 2012. A full recovery may still be years away. According to the economic outlook attached to the Governor's revised budget issued in May, "California is forecast to recover the nonfarm jobs lost during the Great Recession in the fourth quarter of 2015."

16. Wyoming
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.3 percentage points (tied-15th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 7.5%
> Current unemployment: 5.2% (tied-5th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: -1.2% (the lowest)

During the recession, Wyoming thrived. The state's real GDP rose 5.2% in 2008 and another 2.3% in 2009, ranking second-highest in both years. But as the nation's unemployment rate rose from November 2007 through the end of 2009, Wyoming lost jobs as well. By November 2009, roughly 7,000 people in the nation's least-populated state had lost their jobs and unemployment peaked at 7.5%. The state has since recovered the jobs it lost, but its economy has stopped growing. In both 2010 and 2011 the economy contracted. GDP fell by 1.2% in 2011 - worse than any other state.

17. Kentucky
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.3 percentage points (tied-15th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 10.7%
> Current unemployment: 8.4% (15th highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 0.6% (17th lowest)

Kentucky already had one of the nation's highest unemployment rates in November 2007 at 5.6%. During the recession, the state's unemployment rate rose 5.1 percentage points, reaching its peak at 10.7% in late 2009. From November 2007 to November 2009, the state lost more than 90,000 jobs. Since then, the unemployment rate has declined to 8.4%, while the total number of jobs in October exceeded 1.9 million for the first time since July 2008. Earnings also remained low in the state. The average worker was paid just under $700 per week in October, among the lowest average weekly earnings in the U.S.

18. Wisconsin
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.3 percentage points (tied-15th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 9.2%
> Current unemployment: 6.9% (tied-21st lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 1.1% (25th lowest)

At its peak in June 2009, Wisconsin's unemployment rate was 9.2%, after a loss of 108,000 jobs from November 2007. Since then, the state has had little job growth, with a shrinking labor force helping the unemployment rate fall 2.3 percentage points from its peak to 6.9% in October. In early 2010, while campaigning for office, Governor Scott Walker announced an "ambitious plan to bring 250,000 jobs and 10,000 new businesses to Wisconsin by 2015." Politicifact has tracked Walker's promise, noting that the governor still has to add over 200,000 jobs to meet this goal. According to the BLS, from January 2011, when Walker was sworn in, through October 2012, the number of people employed in Wisconsin rose by just 16,000.

19. Massachusetts
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.1 percentage points (tied-19th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 8.7%
> Current unemployment: 6.6% (tied-16th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 2.2% (7th highest)

In November 2007, Massachusetts' unemployment rate was just 4.5%. By October 2009, the rate had risen to 8.9%. As of October, the state's recovery had erased half that increase, bringing Massachusetts' unemployment rate to 6.6%. In those three years Massachusetts added 83,000 jobs. As of October, some industries still had not recovered, and the state is still down more than 30,000 jobs in both construction and manufacturing since late 2007. Many residents have also continued to struggle, with the number of caseloads in the state's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program rising by more than 200,000 over the previous four years.

20. North Carolina
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.1 percentage points (tied-19th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 11.4%
> Current unemployment: 9.3% (5th highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 1.8% (15th highest)

North Carolina had one of the nation's highest increases in unemployment during the recession. The unemployment rate rose 6.5 percentage points between November 2007 and January 2010. In that time, the state lost nearly 230,000 jobs, many of which it has since recovered. In all, between November 2007 and October 2011, the number of employed workers in the state fell by just 30,000 - although, the unemployment rate remained among the highest in the U.S. because the labor force grew by 4.2% in that time. Certain metro areas in the state have fared especially poorly. The unemployment rate in the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton area was 10% in October, while Rocky Mount's unemployment rate was 11.7% - among the worst in the nation.

21. Mississippi
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.0 percentage points (tied-21st highest)
> Peak unemployment: 10.9%
> Current unemployment: 8.9% (8th highest)
> GDP growth 2011:  -0.8% (2nd lowest)

In November 2007, Mississippi had the nation's second-highest unemployment rate at 6.2%. As of October, the state's unemployment rate of 8.9% was the eighth highest in the U.S. In that time, the labor force grew by 30,000 people, an increase of 2.4%. However, the number of jobs in Mississippi has yet to recover from the recession as there were roughly 8,000 fewer employed workers in October 2012 than in November 2007. While weekly earnings rose by 15.6% over that time - one of the highest increases in the U.S. - the average worker made just $675 per week, the second-lowest weekly earnings of any state.

22. Washington
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 2.0 percentage points (tied-21st highest)
> Peak unemployment: 10.2%
> Current unemployment: 8.2% (tied-16th highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 2.0% (11th highest)

According to a Seattle Times report, the Northwest region was hurt more during this recession than it had been in any postwar economic downturn, including when Boeing moved its headquarters from the area and during the dot-com bust of the early 2000s. In this recession, the number of unemployed people in the state more than doubled, from 158,000 in November 2007 to more than 360,000 by February 2010. As of October, there were still well over 100,000 more people without jobs in Washington than there were before the recession hit. For those who still had jobs, however, average weekly earnings rose from $851, the fourth highest in the country, to $934, the second highest, during that time.

23. Idaho
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.9 percentage points (tied-23rd highest)
> Peak unemployment: 8.9%
> Current unemployment: 7.0% (24th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 0.6% (18th lowest)

In November 2007, there were less than 25,000 unemployed people in the small state of Idaho. Three years later, that figure was two and a half times larger. Similarly, going into the recession, Idaho had the ninth-lowest unemployment rate in the country. As of October, the rate had more than doubled to 7%, the 24th lowest. One bright spot for the state is its housing market. Home prices in Idaho rose by 8.7% between the second quarter of 2011 and the second quarter of 2012, the second-largest increase in the country. Fiserv projects home prices will grow an additional 4.7% by the second quarter of 2013, the largest expected increase in the country. Earnings have also exploded in the state, with weekly earnings rising by more than 20% from the beginning of the recession through October - the third-largest increase in the country.

24. Oklahoma
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.9 percentage points (tied-23rd highest)
> Peak unemployment: 7.2%
> Current unemployment: 5.3% (7th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 1.0% (22nd lowest)

Oklahoma's highest unemployment rate during the recession was just 7.2%, which it reached in December 2009. In October 2012, nearly three years later, the unemployment rate had fallen to 5.3%. While the labor market was impacted by the recession, the state's housing market avoided the collapses seen in much of the nation. Between the second quarters of 2007 and 2012, home prices in Oklahoma increased by 3%, making it one of just five states where home prices rose in that time.

25. Kansas
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.9 percentage points (tied-23rd highest)
> Peak unemployment: 7.6%
> Current unemployment: 5.7% (tied-10th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 0.5% (16th lowest)

In October, the unemployment rate in Kansas was 5.7%, down less than two percentage points from its high during the recession, which it reached in July 2009. Since then, the state has added less than 2,000 jobs. The state has also had mediocre economic growth in the last three years, underperforming more than half of all states, as well as the U.S. overall. However, a recent publication from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City highlighted declining unemployment claims, and noted "that a net 5 percent of firms in Kansas ... plan to hire during the fourth quarter of 2012" as evidence of an improving labor market. One source of employment in recent months was aircraft manufacturing, which had an 8.3% increase in employment between October 2011 and October 2012, according to the Wichita Eagle. The industry is crucial to Kansas. According to the state's Department of Commerce, Wichita "is the aviation capital of the world, with 50 percent of domestic commercial aircraft and 40 percent of global aircraft produced in the city."

26. Georgia
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.8 percentage points
> Peak unemployment: 10.5%
> Current unemployment: 8.7% (tied-10th highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 1.7% (16th highest)

From November 2007 to October 2012, Georgia lost more than 225,000 jobs, or 5% of the total number of jobs - worse than all but four states. The collapse of the state's housing market during the recession was well chronicled and included a loss of more than 75,000 construction jobs from November 2007 to October 2012. Even after the job market improved, home values continued to fall. From the second quarter of 2009 to the second quarter of 2012, home prices declined by 15.6% - more than all but one state. Also, over the 12 months ending in the second quarter of 2012, home prices fell by 12.3% - the biggest decline in the nation.

27. Delaware
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.7 percentage points (tied-27th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 8.5%
> Current unemployment: 6.8% (20th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 1.6% (17th highest)

Delaware was not the most severely hit state during the recession, nor did things go better than most states. From its peak in January 2010, the state's unemployment rate has fallen by 1.7 percentage points, a mediocre improvement compared to the other 49 states. Since the beginning of the recession, the state's labor force has shrunk by just over 1%. In the majority of states, the labor force grew during that time. One piece of good news for the state is that its GDP has grown since 2009 even though the national GDP was still contracting at the time.

28. New Mexico
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.7 percentage points (tied-27th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 8.0%
> Current unemployment: 6.3% (15th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 0.2% (10th lowest)

More than 900,000 people were employed in New Mexico in November 2007. By October 2012, that number had fallen to 867,422 - a 4.35% decline, which was one of the nation's largest. The state has yet to fully recover from the recession. Although New Mexico's real GDP actually rose by 0.73% in 2009 - when GDP in the U.S. fell by 3.76% - its growth rate has not kept-pace with the rest of the nation since then. New Mexico's GDP rose just 1.2% in 2010 and just 0.2% in 2011, while the U.S. economy as a whole grew 3.1% and 1.5% in those years. Last year, 21.5% of the state's population lived below the poverty line, the second-highest rate in the country. A study from the Urban Institute and First Focus noted that New Mexico had the highest child poverty rate in the nation last year at 31% - up 5 percentage points from before the recession.

29. Vermont
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.7 percentage points (tied-27th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 7.2%
> Current unemployment: 5.5% (tied-8th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 0.5% (13th lowest)

Going into the recession, Vermont had the 19th-lowest unemployment rate in the country at 4%. As of October, it had the ninth-lowest unemployment rate at 5.5%. At its worst point, during April to June 2009, unemployment was at 7.2%, tied for the eighth-lowest peak recession unemployment rate. While employment has been stable in the state, wage increases have been only middling compared to most states. However, on New Year's Day, the state will increase the minimum wage by 14 cents to $8.60.

30. Hawaii
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.6 percentage points (tied-30th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 7.1%
> Current unemployment: 5.5% (tied-8th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: -0.2% (6th lowest)

In November 2007, Hawaii had a 3% unemployment rate, one of the lowest in the U.S. at the time. Just under two years later, in June 2009, unemployment peaked at 7.1% as the number of unemployed people in the workforce rose from less than 20,000 to more than 45,000. Since 2009, when Hawaii's GDP contracted by 4.6%, the state's economy has scarcely improved. In both 2010 and 2011, the GDP growth rate was among the lowest in the nation. Still, as of October, the state's unemployment rate of 5.5% was one of the lowest in the U.S. The state has also had weekly earnings rise 15% from November 2007 to October 2012 - the ninth-highest increase in the nation.

31. Texas
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.6 percentage points (tied-30th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 8.2%
> Current unemployment: 6.6% (tied-16th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 3.3% (4th highest)

Texas has added more than 570,000 jobs during the recent oil boom, according to the Dallas News. Since January 2010, the state has added more than 60,000 jobs in the mining and logging sector alone, which includes oil extraction and processing. The energy sector has kept unemployment from dipping too much and the economy strong. Texas has been in the top five states for GDP growth in each of the past two years. While it has added more jobs than any other state in the country since November, the influx of new people into the workforce has kept unemployment from falling much. In some cities, unemployment is especially low. In the Midland metropolitan area, the unemployment rate was just 3.3% in October, the fifth-lowest rate of any metropolitan statistical area in the country.

32. Virginia
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.6 percentage points (tied-30th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 7.3%
> Current unemployment: 5.7% (tied-10th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 0.3% (11th lowest)

Virginia's labor force grew by 7.3% between November 2007 and October 2012, more than any other state in the nation except Texas. The state also added 178,000 jobs in that time, again more than any state but Texas. However, many workers still can't find jobs. October's unemployment rate of 5.7% remained closer to the state's recession high of 7.3% than to its prerecession rate of 3.3% in November 2007. The outlook for job growth hinges on the resolution of the fiscal cliff issue in Washington because the state is home to numerous defense contractors, as well as federal military and intelligence installations. If Congress fails to reach a deal, the Defense Department - headquartered in Virginia at the Pentagon - may need to make as much as $500 billion in cuts, which are expected to include many jobs.

33. Rhode Island
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.5 percentage points
> Peak unemployment: 11.9%
> Current unemployment: 10.4% (2nd highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 0.8% (19th lowest)

Just prior to the recession, in November 2007, Rhode Island had the fourth-highest unemployment rate in the country at 5.8%, while the national rate was 4.7% at the time. Two years later, the state's unemployment rate had increased to 11.9%, still the fourth-highest rate in the U.S. As of October of this year, the rate had fallen only slightly to 10.4%, the second-highest in the country behind only Nevada. One of the worst repercussions of the recession in Rhode Island has been the effect on the state's housing market. Home prices fell by more than 25% between the second quarter of 2007 and the second quarter of this year, and they are projected to continue falling through the end of this year.

34. Louisiana
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.3 percentage points (tied-34th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 7.9%
> Current unemployment: 6.6% (tied-16th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 0.5% (15th lowest)

According to a report released by the Brookings Institution, no metropolitan area has recovered more than the hard-hit city of New Orleans. The state as a whole, however, has not been so lucky. During the recession, the number of unemployed people in Louisiana more than doubled to 164,302 in 2010, and despite shrinking somewhat since, that number is still far above prerecession levels, even as the state's economy has been improving. Louisiana led the nation in GDP growth in 2010, at more than 9%. However, in 2011, it grew 0.5%, which was less than the national rate of 1.5%.

35. Maryland
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.3 percentage points (tied-34th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 8.0%
> Current unemployment: 6.7% (19th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 0.9% (21st lowest)

The housing market crash hit Maryland harder than any other state in the Northeast. Between the second quarter of 2007 and the second quarter of this year, the median home price in the state fell by 27.2%. In the past year, while home prices began to recover nationwide, Maryland's housing market continued to dip and is projected to decline at least through the midpoint of next year. The state's job market has also been slow to recover. Going into the recession, Maryland had an unemployment rate of 3.3%, the eighth lowest in the country. The rate peaked at 8% in December 2009, and remained at that level until March 2010, and has only fallen back to 6.7% to date. However, part of the small decline in the state's unemployment rate has to do with the large increase in the state's labor force - the number of people employed in the state has actually almost returned to prerecession levels.

36. Iowa
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.2 percentage points
> Peak unemployment: 6.3%
> Current unemployment: 5.1% (4th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 1.9% (12th highest)

Outside of the Dakotas, Iowa may be the state that was affected the least by the recession. Unemployment in the state peaked in August 2009 at just 6.3% – a lower rate than many states currently have even after recovering many jobs following the end of the recession. The state currently has the fourth-lowest unemployment rate in the country, and Iowa City's unemployment rate of 3.4% is the sixth lowest of any U.S. metropolitan statistical area. The state's agricultural-based economy flourished due to favorable commodity prices, but even with the stabilizing force of agriculture and a relatively untouched housing market, Iowa is still short more than 50,000 jobs compared to its prerecession levels.

37. Nebraska
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.1 percentage points (tied-37th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 4.9%
> Current unemployment: 3.8% (2nd lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 0.2% (9th lowest)

Nebraska's unemployment rate peaked at just 4.9% in July 2009 and was just 3.8% in October 2012. Between November 2007 and October, the total number of employed workers in Nebraska rose 2.6%, among the highest increases in the nation. The state's housing market was also less impacted by the recession than the rest of the U.S. as home prices fell just 2.5% between the second quarters of 2007 and 2012, better than the majority of states. Recently, the state was hit by a drought that's affected much of the U.S. This has led to price increases for both farmers and customers, as well as to a decline in quality for nearly all crops produced by the state's farming sector.

38. North Dakota
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.1 percentage points (tied-37th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 4.2%
> Current unemployment: 3.1% (the lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 7.6% (the highest)

As of October, North Dakota was the only state in the nation with an unemployment rate that was not higher than its pre-recession rate in November 2007. The state's unemployment rate peaked at just 4.2% in March 2009, and from there declined to 3.1% in October - the lowest unemployment rate in the U.S. In 2009, the state's GDP grew by 2%, the third-highest increase in the nation. In 2010 and 2011, the state's economy grew by 9% and 7.6%, respectively, with the latter again the highest in the nation. A major reason the state withstood the recession well was the increase in oil production through fracking in the Bakken shale, which made North Dakota the nation's fourth-largest oil producer last year. Earlier this month, the U.S. Energy Information Administration announced that oil production in the state for September had increased by over a quarter of a million barrels per day from September 2011.

39. Alaska
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.1 percentage points (tied-37th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 8.2%
> Current unemployment: 7.1% (25th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 2.6% (5th highest)

The recession had far less of an impact on jobs in Alaska than in other states. From November 2007 to October 2012, the size of the state's labor force rose by 3% - among the highest increases in the nation. In that time, the number of residents employed in Alaska rose by 2% - the state was just one of eight with an actual increase in the number of employed workers in that time. As of October, Alaskans were also among the best paid workers in the U.S., earning an average of $917 a week. But the state's economy is also highly dependent on the oil industry, from which tax revenues are falling. "As the price of oil declines, production from aging North Slope fields drops, and oil companies take advantage of existing tax credits," reports the Anchorage Daily News.

40. Colorado
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.1 percentage points (tied-37th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 9.0%
> Current unemployment: 7.9% (22nd highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 1.9% (14th highest)

Colorado lost 115,000 jobs between November 2007 and March 2010, when the state's unemployment rate peaked at 9%. As of October, unemployment remained elevated at 7.9%. The state had recovered only 26,000 of the lost jobs after unemployment peaked. However, some industries have recovered well. Over the 12 months ending in October, manufacturing employment increased by 3.7%, and construction employment rose by 4.7%. According to the Colorado Springs Business Journal, the state has allocated $100 million in funds for capital projects, which should help sustain and grow construction employment.

41. Maine
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.0 percentage points (tied-41st highest)
> Peak unemployment: 8.4%
> Current unemployment: 7.4% (24th highest)
> GDP growth 2011: -0.4% (5th lowest)

Going into the recession, there were approximately 34,000 unemployed people looking for work in Maine. By February 2010, that number had risen to nearly 59,000. As of October of this year, that number had only fallen by 10% to roughly 53,000. GDP growth has been extremely slow, and Maine was one of only seven states whose economies contracted in 2011. Maine economist Charles Colgan believes the state's economy will not recover to pre-recession employment levels until 2017. "Under the best of circumstances, 2012 won't be a rip-roaring year because [pessimistic] forces are simply too deep and entrenched for a quick turnaround," Colgan told the AP.

42. Montana
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.0 percentage points (tied-41st highest)
> Peak unemployment: 7.0%
> Current unemployment: 6.0% (14th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 0% (7th lowest)

After reaching a peak in September 2010, Montana's unemployment rate fell just 1 percentage point, from 7% to 6% in October, 2012. This was one of the smallest decreases in the U.S. However, in that time, the state has added nearly 14,000 jobs to one of the nation's smallest labor forces. Also suggesting a recovery, Fiserv projects Montana's home prices will rise by an average rate of 4.6% a year between the second quarter of 2012 and the second quarter of 2017 - one of the highest rates in the nation. Unlike several other states in which home prices are expected to rise significantly, Montana was not among the hardest hit by the recession. Over the five years ending in the second quarter of 2012, home prices fell just 6.8% in Montana versus 27.6% nationwide.

43. New Hampshire
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.0 percentage points (tied-41st highest)
> Peak unemployment: 6.7%
> Current unemployment: 5.7% (tied-10th lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 1.5% (19th highest)

Compared to many state economies, New Hampshire was barely touched by the recession. Unemployment peaked at just 6.7% and remains among the lowest in the country. However, while the state lost relatively few jobs, it has failed to recover any substantial proportion of those jobs. The number of unemployed people in the state grew from roughly 25,000 in November 2007 to nearly 50,000 in the last few months of 2009. That number has only fallen by a few thousand in the past two years. As reported in the Nashua Telegraph, economist Dennis Delay notes that while New Hampshire has often performed better than other states, this time it has been beaten by other New England states. "While the assessment of New Hampshire's current employment picture may improve with next year's revisions to the current jobs data, the weak performance of the state economy is still a serious concern," he said.

44. West Virginia
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.0 percentage points (tied-41st highest)
> Peak unemployment: 8.5%
> Current unemployment: 7.5% (23rd highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 4.5% (3rd highest)

Even after West Virginia's economy grew by 4.5% in 2011, more than nearly any other state, it  continues to struggle. Although the state was the second-largest producer of coal in the nation last year, the industry has been hit hard by a collapse in prices, which hurt many West Virginia miners. Over the 12 months ending in October, employment in the state's mining and logging sector fell by 14.8% as several companies have recently shut or announced plans to shut coal mines. Additionally, manufacturing employment declined by more than 5%.

45. Arkansas
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 1.0 percentage points (tied-41st highest)
> Peak unemployment: 8.2%
> Current unemployment: 7.2% (25th highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 0.3% (12th lowest)

Arkansas' unemployment rate peaked in July 2011 at 8.2%. As of October, the state's unemployment rate had declined by just 1 percentage point from its peak. And the bad news for the workers who retained their jobs, as of October, the state had the nation's lowest average weekly earnings at just $656. Last year, the state also had one of the nation's highest poverty rates in the country at 19.5%. Since 2007, Arkansas has seen only one year of real GDP growth in excess of 1%, lagging well behind the U.S. economy as a whole.

46. South Dakota
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 0.8 percentage points
> Peak unemployment: 5.3%
> Current unemployment: 4.5% (3rd lowest)
> GDP growth 2011: 0.8% (20th highest)

South Dakota's unemployment rate reached 5.3% during the recession, one of the lowest peak unemployment rates of all states. Since first reaching this high in May 2009, the unemployment rate has fallen just 0.8 percentage points. But the state's job market remains very strong. The October unemployment rate was among the lowest in the U.S., while average weekly earnings were up by more than 30% from November 2007, a larger increase than any state except neighboring North Dakota. Despite this, earnings in South Dakota were among the lowest in the country with the average worker making just $690 per week. To compare, the average weekly earnings in North Dakota exceeded $800. GDP growth was also limited. The state's economy grew 0.2% in 2010, the third worst in the nation, and last year it grew just 0.8% compared to the 1.5% growth rate for the nation.

47. Pennsylvania
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 0.6 percentage points
> Peak unemployment: 8.7%
> Current unemployment: 8.1% (tied-18th highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 1.2% (22nd highest)

Pennsylvania's unemployment rate did not rise as much as it did in other states during the recession. Its peak rate of 8.7% in January and February of 2010 was 4.1 percentage points higher than its November 2007 level, a smaller increase than two-thirds of states. However, unlike most of the states with smaller increases in unemployment, Pennsylvania's unemployment rate remains well above the national figure. The number of unemployed people in the state nearly doubled during the recession to a peak of more than 555,000 jobless people. As of October of this year, that number had only declined by 27,000. The good news is that while the state as a whole is far from recovering, the Brookings Institution found that Pittsburgh was just one of three U.S. metropolitan areas to have gotten back up to pre-recession employment levels. The reason is due to the region's strong oil and gas industry, Brookings reports.

48. Connecticut
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 0.4 percentage points (tied-48th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 9.4%
> Current unemployment: 9.0% (7th highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 2.0% (9th highest)

Connecticut's unemployment rate reached a high of 9.4% in August 2010. Unemployment then started to fall but in mid-2012 began rising again, eventually reaching 9% in October. The labor force lost more than 30,000 employees over the 12 months ending in October. Total employment as of October was lower than at any point during the height of the recession. Fairfield County, home to many financial sector employees, has been impacted by Wall Street layoffs, which have also pushed down home prices. As of October, Waterbury, another area in Connecticut, had an unemployment rate of 11.1% - one of the highest in the nation.

49. New York
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 0.4 percentage points (tied-48th highest)
> Peak unemployment: 9.1%
> Current unemployment: 8.7% (tied-10th highest)
> GDP growth 2011: 1.1% (24th lowest)

Through October, New York had yet to have a major jobs recovery. The state's unemployment rate hit a recent high in July 2012 of 9.1% - higher than at any point during the recession. From November, 2007 through October, 2012, the number of jobs in New York fell by over 4%, one of the larger declines in the U.S. Among the sectors in New York that lost the most jobs during the recession was financial activities with many of the industry's largest firms cutting payrolls this year. Several other sectors, including construction and manufacturing, have consistently lost jobs over the past several years. Unemployment in the New York City metro area has risen as well, from 4.2% in November 2007 to 8.7% in October 2012.

50. New Jersey
> Unemployment decline from recession peak: 0.2 percentage points
> Peak unemployment: 9.9%
> Current unemployment: 9.7% (4th highest)
> GDP growth 2011: -0.5% (4th lowest)

No state has struggled to recover from the recession as much as New Jersey. While most other states' unemployment rates peaked during the recession, New Jersey's peaked in August 2012 at 9.9%. Though down slightly in October to 9.7%, the state's workforce had an especially difficult year. Construction lost 7,500 jobs during the 12 months ending in October - equal to a 5.8% decline in that sector - despite an ongoing $2.5 billion construction project on the New Jersey Turnpike. The Laborers International Union of North America recently endorsed Governor Chris Christie's re-election campaign due to his support of numerous large-scale construction projects.

-By Michael B. Sauter and Alexander E. M. Hess


Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Economy Tagged: featured

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Investor’s Toolbox

Improve your investing savvy with the right financial toolset.

View Course »

Introduction to Economic Indicators

Measure the performance of the economy.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum