Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

National Economy Gives Way to Regional Economies

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

National Economy Gives Way to Regional Economies

Article excerpt

Regional fortunes seem to be constantly shifting, said Janet Norwood, labor statistics commissioner, in her monthly employment report to Congress.

The striking stability of the national jobless rate over the past two years, she told the Joint Economic Committee, has disguised substantial and important regional shifts.

During the past 12 months, for example, the nation's official monthly jobless rate has varied from 5.3 percent only three times - in May 1989 and in March 1990 when it read 5.2 percent and in April 1990 when 5.4 percent was recorded.

Remarkable stability indeed. But only when you average things out, and averages are not what people live by.

The jobless rate in New England, for example, had been unusually low a year or so ago, in some communities as low as 3 percent, which statisticians believe is about as low as you can get.

But in the past year, unemployment in that six-state New England region has risen 2 percentage points, bringing the situation there close to the national average.

The Southern region also has been closing in on the national average, but from a different direction. Rates there, which had been among the highest in the nation, have been improving, i.e. going the opposite way.

It is out of such differences that national averages come into being. They are official. They are highly publicized and analyzed. They produce profound documents on possible policy implications.

But to residents of those two huge areas of America, especially jobseekers and jobholders, those official statistics mislead.

Generally speaking, said Norwood, ``the last year has seen some convergence of state and regional unemployment rates, with the worse-off areas improving and the best deteriorating.''

This is a big country, statisticians explain, and some of them say it is about time the differences were recognized. U.S. regional economies, they say, are as big as the economies of major industrialized nations. …

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