How different do you think Americans' take on the current economy would be if the business press picked up on the fact that the bad employment news is coming predominantly out of two struggling states -- and that most of the rest of the nation is holding its own?
That's the question that occurred to me as I looked at April's Bureau of Labor Statistics regional and state employment and unemployment report this morning.
Three things stick out:
- How big of a drag California is in the overall employment picture.
- How much of an outlier Michigan is.
- How Oklahoma continues to impress.
How much California and Michigan are affecting the overall picture is a real eye-opener:
(Note: The seasonally adjusted rate for all states differs from the nationally reported rate of 5.0% earlier this month because of differences in data collection methods.)
The Not-So-Golden State and the home of the Wolverines have a combined 15% of the workforce, but almost 20% of the unemployed. Without them (tempting, but I have relatives in CA who needs to be warned first), the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate would be 0.2% lower, the unadjusted rate would be 0.3% lower, and the press wouldn't be talking about the supposed recession (OK, they wouldn't be talking about it quite as much).
Only three other "states" -- relatively small AK, DC, and RI -- have seasonally adjusted or unadjusted unemployment rates of 6.0% or above. Roughly two-thirds of all states have unemployment rates of 4.9% or lower.
So at least from a jobs standpoint, if you want to talk about "economies" in recession (a term that should really be limited to whole countries), we should be talking about the states of California and Michigan, because the rest of the country is doing pretty well. I don't recall two states having such a disproportionate impact on the national picture during other economic rough patches, with maybe Texas and Louisiana in the late 1970s and early 1980s being an exception.
If the election ends up being about the economy, and John McCain loses, it's a pretty good bet that Arnold Schwarzenegger won't make the Arizona Senator's Christmas card list.
Many in the business press, rather than focusing on the mostly self-inflicted problems in California and Michigan, would appear to want to make it look as if economic sluggishness is a nationwide phenomenon, when it clearly isn't.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma's exceptional performance continued in April, as its seasonally adjusted and unadjusted unemployment rates came in at 3.2% and 2.9%, respectively -- down 1.2% and 1.0%, respectively from April 2007. No state with a larger population has lower unemployment.
I theorized last month (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog) that the Sooner State's enforcement-focused immigration legislation passed last year might a main contributor to its outstanding employment situation. The longer its rate stays much lower than the rest of the nation's -- even if California and Michigan are taken out of the comparison -- the more compelling that theory will be.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.