State Economic Flu Isn't Catching

The symptoms are confined to states with fossil-fuel producers.

There's no point in pumping.

Photographer: Matthew Lloyd/Bloomberg

Six states lost jobs during the 12 months ended in March. It's a familiar bunch -- Alaska, Louisiana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Wyoming -- all hammered by either coal's decline or the collapse in U.S. oil drilling that has followed the collapse of global oil prices. (That price plunge was of course brought on in part by the earlier rise in U.S. oil production enabled by hydraulic fracturing and other new drilling technologies. Ah, the oil business!)

These states are effectively in recession or close to it. But is it catching?

The March state employment numbers, released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, don't contain much evidence of contagion. Thirty-seven states saw increases in nonfarm payroll employment from February to March, 13 (that includes the District of Columbia) saw declines and one (South Dakota) saw no change. That's about the same breakdown as in February (37 gainers, 14 losers), better than in January (31-20), and about the same as in December (37-14) and November (36-14-1).

Despite their recent stability, the month-to-month numbers can be very noisy, which is why I started this column by citing trailing-12-month data. Here's what that looks like going back to 1991:

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