State Unemployment Up, But Things Could be Worse. We’re Looking at You, California

Arkansas unemployment rate rose seven-tenths of a percentage point from December to January, hitting 6.4 percent in the first month of the year. But for right now, things could be worse!

First, the report revised downward the December 2008 Arkansas unemployment rate, taking it from 6.2 percent to 5.7 percent. And in January, the Arkansas rate was still more than a full percentage point less than the national average. (That national average, of course, increased even more in February, hitting 8.1 percent.)

And then there’s the fact that, thank goodness, we ain’t California. Or South Carolina. Or Michigan and Rhode Island. Each of those states are already at double digits in January. It’s a trend we’ve been quickly working toward, as economists predict the nation will hit 10 or 11 percent unemployment by 2010:

In December, only Michigan had a double-digit jobless rate. One month later, four states did and that doesn’t count Puerto Rico, which saw its unemployment rate actually dip to 13 percent in January, from 13.5 percent in December.

California’s unemployment rate jumped to 10.1 percent in January, from 8.7 percent in December, as jobs have disappeared in the construction, finance and retail industries.

Michigan’s jobless rate jumped to 11.6 percent in January, the highest in the country. The second-highest jobless rate was South Carolina at 10.4 percent. Rhode Island was next at 10.3 percent, which marked an all-time high for the state in federal records dating to 1976. California rounded out the top four.

Back here in Arkansas, each sector of the economy lost jobs, even the stalwarts like government and health care (some of which can be attributed to seasonal changes).

Luckily, employers in central Arkansas still seem reasonably positive, according to a survey we noted yesterday by Manpower, which said most employers in Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway plan to maintain staffing levels or hire more people in the second quarter of 2009.

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