There is little disagreement that the national jobs picture is ugly. The unemployment rate stands at 9.5 percent, unchanged from June 2009. If you include the under-employed, the fed up and not looking crowd, and the frustrated college grads who decided to go back to college, the rate is probably closer to 20 percent.
However, there are some bright spots-okay, let's call them not-as-bad spots-when you break down the job data state by state.
According to a new study by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 39 states and the District of Columbia recorded unemployment rate decreases in June compared with May. Just five states had increases and six states had no change.
In addition, 24 states recorded unemployment rate increases from a year earlier, 22 states and the District of Columbia had decreases, and four states had no change.
The study also found that nonfarm payroll employment increased in 21 states and the District of Columbia, decreased in 27 states, and 2 states had no change.
Of course, this data does nothing to help the individuals still looking for work, especially those among the 50 percent of the unemployed who have been out of work for at least six months.
However, the data could boost the confidence of companies doing business in the areas showing job growth. It would indicate economic conditions are strong enough to support investment, whether to hire or expand in other ways.
Of course, companies looking to hire in states where the job picture continues to worsen could become more discerning when it comes to hiring and a tougher negotiator over what to pay new employees and whether to give raises to existing employees.
In any case, the states with the largest month-to-month increases in employment occurred in Texas (+14,000), Kentucky (+6,200), Arkansas (+6,000), Louisiana (+5,800), and North Carolina (+5,100). Montana recorded the largest percentage increase in employment (+1 percent), followed by Alaska (+0.9 percent), and Arkansas and Vermont (+0.5 percent each).
The largest month-to-month employment decreases were in California (-27,600), New York (-22,500), Tennessee (-20,800), Arizona (-11,700), and New Mexico (-11,200). The largest percentage decreases in employment occurred in New Mexico (-1.4 percent), Hawaii (-1.0 percent), and Tennessee (-0.8percent).
Over the past year, the largest percentage decrease in employment occurred in New Mexico (-2.2 percent), followed by Nevada (-2.0 percent), Rhode Island (-1.7 percent), Georgia (-1.5 percent), Colorado (-1.4 percent), and California (-1.3 percent).
The largest percentage increases in employment were reported in Kentucky (+1.5 percent), Indiana and New Hampshire (+1.4 percent each), the District of Columbia (+1.3 percent), and Alaska (+1.2 percent).