While the national unemployment rate remained unchanged from July through September at 9.1 percent, the picture is rosier in some states and decidedly less so in others. The oil boom in North Dakota has helped keep the state's unemployment at an unusually low 3.5 percent. Nevada unemployment, while down from 14.9 percent a year ago, has risen for the third straight month as tourism along with new construction remains sluggish.
Unfortunately, the states with low unemployment don't make much of a dent in the nation's overall rate because they tend to be small. For example, in North Dakota 96.5 percent of the workforce is employed, but this represents just 360,000 employed and 13,000 unemployed workers. In California, where unemployment is at 12.1 percent, close to 2.2 million workers are idle.