The Labor Department reported Friday that the nation's unemployment rate dipped slightly to 7.7% in July. Although the jobless data indicates a slight improvement in the sluggish economy, the recovery is uneven throughout the country.
To assess the strength of the job market in various regions, Times staff writers spoke with economists, government officials, company officials and the unemployed workers. Here's what they found:
There is no mistaking the trend in the Northeast: A bad situation is getting worse.
Unemployment here has been worse than for the nation as a whole for some time and in July jobless rates rose again in key industrial states: New York, 9.4%; New Jersey, 9.8%; and Pennsylvania, 7.7%. Only Massachusetts bucked the trend as its jobless rate declined to 8.3%.
New York City is in the worst shape, with unemployment at 12.1%. Rae Rosen, economist for the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, says the city's jobless rate could hit 14% before showing any improvement some time next year.
Things are likely to get worse elsewhere in the region too, she says, as announced layoffs by big employers in the region, including IBM and Kraft Foods, go into effect over the next few months.
"It's going to be quite some time before we see signs of recovery," agreed Josephine Nieves, New York City's employment commissioner.
The Northeast continues to be hit hard by the shakeout in services: banks merge and shed employees, insurance companies feel the squeeze of a weak economy, and even booming Wall Street brokerage firms aren't doing any significant hiring. This comes on top of a continuing long-term decline in manufacturing jobs.
There has been some improvement in New England. But some economists say this is because the battered region entered the recession earlier and is now showing earlier signs of recovery.
Despite being hurt by the downturn in the defense industry, Long Island is seeing a few small rays of hope. A number of big retail stores, such as Kmart and Home Depot have opened up, attracted by lower real estate prices.
* RELATED STORY: A1
Industrial State Unemployment Jobless rates in July for 11 major industrial states.
July June State rate rate California 8.9% 9.5% Florida 8.6% 8.5% Illinois 8.4% 8.6% Massachusetts 8.3% 8.8% Michigan 9.4% 8.8% New Jersey 9.8% 9.2% New York 9.4% 9.2% North Carolina 6.3% 6.5% Ohio 7.4% 7.6% Pennsylvania 7.7% 7.6% Texas 7.2% 8.2%
Source: Labor Department