NC State Economist Mike Walden – Where is Unemployment Low?

The jobless rate continues to be an issue in our country, and especially here in North Carolina. When you look at a map of the country, where do you now see the lowest rates of joblessness? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden responds.

“What I’ll ask our listeners to do is visualize a map of the U.S., and on that map is a code that tells us how high unemployment is in the various states. And what you will see is a very stark distinction of the middle of the country from Texas up to the Dakotas, really the plains states.

“There you have significantly lower unemployment than you do on either side of the country, the east coast or the west coast. And so the question is, Why? And there are several potential reasons. One, those states in the middle of the country have a high degree of involvement in the energy industry, and the energy industry has, of course, expanded dramatically.

“They also are very big agricultural sectors, agricultural states. And agriculture has actually done very well over the last decade. So, that’s helping those economies. Also, those states have very little manufacturing. And manufacturing is going through a big transition. It certainly was hit by the recession, but it’s also going through a long term transition of replacing people with machines. The fact that those states don’t have manufacturing is actually helping to keep the unemployment rate low.

“And then the last thing I’ll say is those states — if you look at the data — did not go through the big housing bust that we saw that really drove this recession. And because their housing markets were much more stable that has helped them maintain relatively low unemployment.”

A native of the Texas Panhandle, Rhonda was born and raised on a cotton farm where she saw cotton farming evolve from ditch irrigation to center pivot irrigation and harvest trailers to modules. After graduating from Texas Tech University, she got her start in radio with KGNC News Talk 710 in Amarillo, Texas.