Unemployment in the five states of the Gulf South increased by 897,118 workers in the year from May, 2008 to May, 2009. This was a 66% increase! According to seasonally adjusted data available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Florida had the highest regional unemployment rate of 10.2%, increasing from 5.8% a year ago by adding another 408,553 workers to the ranks of the unemployed. Alabama was second in the region with 9.8% of its workers unemployed and Mississippi was third with 9.6% unemployed. The national unemployment rate in May was 9.4%. The regional picture is:
|State||May 2008 Unemployed Workers||May 2008 Unemployment Rate||May 2009 Unemployed Workers||May 2009 Unemployed Rate||increase in Unemployed Workers|
While Texas and Louisiana had unemployment levels below the national and Gulf South averages, both sustained significant increases in unemployment in a single year.
The federal stimulus package offered States a variety of options for improving the unemployment benefits for their workers. An overall view of the action or inaction by the States in accepting these benefits and making these changes can be found at the National Employment Law Project, Federal Stimulus Funding Produces Unprecedented Wave of State Unemployment Insurance Reforms (June 16, 2009).
The Institute for Southern Studies has also done an analysis of the role of politics among certain Southern governors in refusing to accept federal benefits for the workers in their States. See Without Unemployment Aid, Residents in Mississippi and Alabama Face Hard Decisions (July 9, 2009).
In Louisiana, Governor Bobby Jindal refused certain additional unemployment benefits for workers under the federal stimulus although the State of Louisiana leads the nation in having eighty-two months of Unemployment Insurance reserves in its Trust Fund, had one of the lowest unemployment tax rates in the nation, and pays the fourth lowest average weekly benefit amount among the States ($220.91 in Louisiana, followed by Alaska at $219.58, Alabama at $207.07, and Mississippi at $197.23 - figures for first quarter of 2009).
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