Right to Work, by the Numbers: Part 4

Historic Highs and Lows in Unemployment

In my previous post in this series, I closed by noting that proponents of “right to work” might very well want to emphasize that eight of the ten states with the lowest current unemployment averages are “right to work” states.

Those states are Virginia, Oklahoma, Iowa, Wyoming, Utah, South Dakota, Nebraska, and North Dakota.

I have highlighted them in bold in the table that follows, which compares current unemployment rates with historic high and low unemployment rates.

Current Unemployment Rates for States and Historical Highs/Lows
Seasonally Adjusted

Mar. 2013p

Historical High

Historical Low

State

Rate

Date

Rate

Date

Rate

Alabama

7.2

Dec. 1982

14.3

Apr. 2007

3.2

Alaska

6.2

June 1986

11.5

Apr. 2007

5.9

Arizona

7.9

Jan. 1983

11.6

July 2007

3.5

Arkansas

7.2

July 1983

10.1

Nov. 2000

4.0

California

9.4

Oct. 2010

12.4

Jan. 2001

4.7

Colorado

7.1

Nov. 2010

9.1

Jan. 2001

2.6

Connecticut

8.0

Dec. 2010

9.4

Oct. 2000

2.1

Delaware

7.3

Dec. 1976

9.3

Feb. 1989

2.8

District of Columbia

8.5

Feb. 1983

11.6

May 1989

4.8

Florida

7.5

Mar. 2010

11.4

Aug. 2006

3.3

Georgia

8.4

Jan. 2010

10.4

Dec. 2000

3.3

Hawaii

5.1

Jan. 1976

9.9

Dec. 2006

2.3

Idaho

6.2

Feb. 1983

9.6

Mar. 2007

2.7

Illinois

9.5

Feb. 1983

12.9

Feb. 1999

4.2

Indiana

8.7

Jan. 1983

12.7

Apr. 1999

2.6

Iowa

4.9

Mar. 1983

8.6

Oct. 1999

2.5

Kansas

5.6

Aug. 2009

7.5

Apr. 1979

3.0

Kentucky

8.0

Jan. 1983

12.0

June 2000

4.1

Louisiana

6.2

Nov. 1986

12.8

July 2006

3.6

Maine

7.1

Jan. 1977

9.0

Jan. 2001

3.1

Maryland

6.6

Nov. 1982

8.4

Feb. 2008

3.3

Massachusetts

6.4

Jan. 1976

11.1

Oct. 2000

2.6

Michigan

8.5

Dec. 1982

16.8

Mar. 2000

3.3

Minnesota

5.4

Dec. 1982

9.1

Mar. 1999

2.5

Mississippi

9.4

Apr. 1983

13.5

Apr. 2001

4.9

Missouri

6.7

Feb. 1983

10.6

Jan. 2000

2.8

Montana

5.6

Mar. 1983

8.8

Dec. 2006

3.1

Nebraska

3.8

Feb. 1983

6.7

Feb. 1998

2.2

Nevada

9.7

Oct. 2010

14.0

Apr. 2000

3.8

New Hampshire

5.7

Sept. 1992

7.6

May 1987

2.1

New Jersey

9.0

Dec. 1976

10.7

July 2000

3.6

New Mexico

6.9

Mar. 1983

10.0

June 2007

3.4

New York

8.2

Nov. 1976

10.3

Apr. 1988

4.0

North Carolina

9.2

Feb. 2010

11.3

Mar. 1999

3.1

North Dakota

3.3

Feb. 1983

6.8

July 2001

2.6

Ohio

7.1

Jan. 1983

13.9

Jan. 2001

3.8

Oklahoma

5.0

June 1983

9.2

Dec. 2000

2.8

Oregon

8.2

Jan. 1983

12.1

Feb. 1995

4.7

Pennsylvania

7.9

Mar. 1983

12.9

Mar. 2000

4.0

Rhode Island

9.1

Feb. 2010

11.9

July 1988

2.9

South Carolina

8.4

Jan. 2010

11.9

Mar. 1998

3.2

South Dakota

4.3

Feb. 1983

6.0

Mar. 2000

2.5

Tennessee

7.9

Jan. 1983

12.8

May 2000

3.9

Texas

6.4

Nov. 1986

9.3

Jan. 2001

4.2

Utah

4.9

Mar. 1983

10.0

Mar. 2007

2.4

Vermont

4.1

Jan. 1976

8.8

Apr. 2000

2.4

Virginia

5.3

Jan. 1983

7.8

Dec. 2000

2.2

Washington

7.3

Nov. 1982

12.2

May 2007

4.4

West Virginia

7.0

Mar. 1983

18.1

Mar. 2008

3.9

Wisconsin

7.1

Jan. 1983

11.5

Feb. 2000

3.0

Wyoming

4.9

Jan. 1987

9.1

Apr. 1979

2.3

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

It should be fairly obvious that these states have always been among those with the lowest unemployment. Only one, Utah, has ever had double-digit unemployment, and Utah’s historic high has been just 10%.

Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota have never had unemployment rates above 7%.

Even more telling is that the historic low unemployment rate in all eight of these states has been less than 3% and generally very close to 2%. In most other states—in particular, in most more populous states—the historic lows in the unemployment rate have been between 3% and 4.5%.

In general, employment has remained more stable in states with small populations because (1) core public- and private-sector service jobs are relatively immune to economic downturns, (2) a higher percentage of the small population is self-employed in farming, ranching, small businesses, and the professions, and (3) there is little employment in large, more volatile industries because there simply isn’t a sufficient workforce to support such industries. (Manufacturing employment will be the topic of the next post in this series.)

The only state among these eight with a sizable population is Virginia, and since World War II, employment in the Federal offices and other facilities in northern Virginia have been an increasingly significant factor in that state’s economy.

Indeed, one might argue that far from demonstrating the benefits of “right to work” states, this chart actually exposes the fallacy that there are benefits.

One should note that beyond the eight states that have been the focus of this post, only two “right to work” states– Texas and Idaho– have had historic high unemployment rates under 10%.

So, 10 of the 24 “right to work” states have historic high unemployment rates under 10%, compared to 10 of the 26 pro-labor states.

Moreover, if one excludes Indiana and Michigan, the remaining 10 states with historic high unemployment rates of 12% or more are also evenly split between pro-labor and “right to work” states.

13 thoughts on “Right to Work, by the Numbers: Part 4

  1. Pingback: Talking Points, No. 2 | Academe Blog

  2. Pingback: Right to Work, by the Numbers: Part 6 | Academe Blog

  3. Pingback: Right to Work by the Numbers: GDP by State and GDP per Capita by State | Academe Blog

  4. Pingback: “Right to Work,” by the Numbers: Part 8: GDP in Urban and Rural America | Academe Blog

  5. Pingback: More Self-Sponsored and Self-Serving Far-Right Scholarly Research | The Academe Blog

  6. Pingback: “Right to Work,” by the Numbers: Part 9: Previously Uninsured Americans Who Now Receive Health Insurance through the Federal Exchanges Established under the Affordable Care Act | The Academe Blog

  7. Pingback: “Right to Work,” by the Numbers: Part 10: Unemployment Rates in August 2015 | The Academe Blog

  8. Pingback: “Right to Work,” by the Numbers: Part 11: Adult Obesity Rates | The Academe Blog

  9. Pingback: “Right to Work” by the Numbers: Part 12: Unemployment Rates in Mid-December 2015 | The Academe Blog

  10. Pingback: “Right to Work,” by the Numbers: Part 13: Poverty Rates in 2014 | The Academe Blog

  11. Pingback: “Right to Work,” by the Numbers: Part 15 | ACADEME BLOG

  12. Pingback: “Right to Work,” By the Numbers: Part 14 | Ohio Labor

Your comments are welcome. They must be relevant to the topic at hand and must not contain advertisements, degrade others, or violate laws or considerations of privacy. We encourage the use of your real name, but do not prohibit pseudonyms as long as you don’t impersonate a real person.