While the U.S. economy added jobs overall in March, employers in 31 states made cuts to their payrolls, according to data released by the Labor Department April 21.
Unemployment levels rose or remained the same in 27 states, and fell in 23 states. Nationally, about 126,000 jobs were added in March; that’s the fewest in 15 months, breaking a yearlong streak of 200,000-plus gains each month.
Oil- and gas-producing states, in particular, were hit hard. Texas dropped 25,400 workers, the first decline it’s seen since September of 2010. Oklahoma lost 12,900 jobs and Pennsylvania lost 12,700. North Dakota lost 3,000, which is significant given that it’s a very small state. None of this is surprising, given that fuel prices have plunged since mid-2014 (the value of crude oil has dropped by 60% since last June), causing drillers and miners to pare down their workforces.
Changing fuel prices are probably also responsible for gains in some other states, however. California added 39,800 jobs, followed by Florida with 30,600 jobs. Both states are high oil consumers.
Experts also say that harsh winter weather that persisted into the beginning of March probably led to job losses elsewhere. Also to blame are a labor dispute affecting numerous West Coast ports, the effects of which have spread across the country, and the strength of the dollar, which has led to lower foreign demand. Job seekers or supply chain recruiters in the manufacturing and shipping industries will have their work cut out for them in the near future.
While the setback is certainly significant — and will probably bolster a decision by the Fed to hold off on raising interest rates until late summer — nearly all states have added jobs over the last year (West Virginia being the only exception). A full 46 states plus the District of Columbia have seen falling unemployment rates, too; Louisiana, North Dakota and South Carolina are the only states with higher unemployment now than this same time a year ago.
Dan Charney, President of Direct Recruiters, says, “In spite of the rise in unemployment last month, for the first time in 6 years, the job market is strong. Job seekers now will find a greater number of opportunities available that will most likely offer better pay. The hottest industries for hiring are information technology, financial services, manufacturing, and healthcare.”