California and Michigan, which each suffered some of the worst losses during the recession, are adding jobs again. California last month had its single best month for job creation in more than two decades.
Still, six states lost jobs from February 2010 through last month. Among the worst for job creation in that time were New Mexico and New Jersey, states that only a year ago were in the middle of the pack.
Overall, 44 states boosted employment in that stretch, one of the best year over-year showings since the recession ended in June 2009. And the unemployment rate has fallen in 41 states. The February report from the Labor Department on state and regional employment is the latest sign that job growth is picking up.
Nationwide, employers added 1.3 million net jobs in that period.
California, which was still losing jobs as recently as September, has added nearly 200,000 jobs in that time. That’s second only to Texas, which added 254,200 net jobs.
“California ... has been lagging the United States a bit, but it seems to be catching up this year,” said Jerry Nickelsburg, senior economist with the University of California, Los Angeles’ quarterly Anderson Forecast.
Rising imports have boosted jobs among shipping companies that take the goods from ports and distribute them around the country.
Internet services firms have also been a major source of growth. Google Inc. has been on a hiring spree, adding 4,600 employees last year. It plans to add 6,200 more in 2011, though some will be overseas. Zynga, which developed the popular “FarmVille” game for Facebook, has been hiring rapidly. It was founded in 2007 in San Francisco and already has 1,500 employees.
But six states still experienced job losses over the past year — Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico and New Jersey.
Most of the losses were small. As a percent of their work forces, Kansas reported the biggest loss. Layoffs by telecommunications companies, particularly Sprint, and cuts by insurance companies, restaurants and bars have cost Kansas a net total of 10,500 jobs in the past year.
New Mexico’s payrolls have fallen by 6,800 since February 2010. The drop mostly reflects small losses from many firms rather than any large layoffs, business leaders say.
“It’s like a duck nipping at our ankles. It’s a little bit here and a little bit there and before you know it, it becomes a big number,” said Terri Cole, president and CEO of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce.
Construction firms and governments have cut jobs. And while the state produces oil and natural gas, it hasn’t benefited as much as its neighbors, Texas and Oklahoma. That’s because those states produce more oil. New Mexico focuses more on production of natural gas, said Jim Peach, an economics professor at New Mexico State University. Natural gas prices haven’t risen nearly as much in the past year as oil.
Growing competition has also hurt its casino industry, as neighboring states such as Pennsylvania and Delaware have recently allowed gambling.
Atlantic City’s unemployment rate is above 14 percent and has barely budged in the past year, even as the nation’s jobless rate has fallen by almost a percentage point.