Most States Still Struggling to Get to Pre-Recession Levels of Employment

When the recession officially started in December 2007, total nonfarm payroll employment stood at 130.4 million. By the end of the recession in June 2009, that figure had fallen by 7.5 million and as of July 2013, employment was still below its pre-recession peak by about 2 million positions. According to analysis by the Wall Street Journal, we won’t hit that pre-recession peak again until mid-2014. If you adjust for the growth in population since 2007 and assume we maintain current employment growth rates, the Brookings Institution predicts it will take nine more years to return to that peak.

Based on analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 13 states currently have employment at or above pre-recession levels. North Dakota has grown the most and has 23 percent more positions today than it did when the recession began. Texas comes in second with 6.6 percent higher employment followed by Alaska, with 4.6 percent growth.  In nominal terms, Texas has seen the largest employment gains and now has nearly 700,000 more positions than it did when the recession began, while New York has 106,000 more positions and North Dakota has 89,000 more positions.

Among the 37 states who still have not achieved pre-recession levels of employment, Nevada has the longest way to go—employment levels in the state are still down 10.1 percent when compared to employment levels in December 2007. Florida’s employment is down 6.4 percent and Arizona’s is down 5.7 percent over December 2007.

In nominal terms, California remains in the biggest employment hole, with 522,000 fewer positions now than it had in December 2007, followed by Florida with a 518,000 position deficit and Ohio with a 217,000 position deficit. While California may still be down nearly half a million positions, the state has been adding employment for 23 of the last 24 months and has added almost 1.2 million positions since reaching an employment low in November 2009. A similar story is playing out in Florida, where employment has increased every month except for the most recent one (June 2013) and has gained back  around 710,000 positions since the state hit an employment low in November 2009.