Someone Explain If This Is Good News

April 2009 state-by-state unemploymentThe Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest release on unemployment, released just an hour ago, may or may not be good news. It looks like the unemployment rate decreased in 21 states in April and 11 states’ rates didn’t change; only 18 states and the District of Columbia registered rate increases.

But in the same report, the BLS says that employment decreased in 44 states and D.C., with the biggest losses in California, Texas, Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois. Update: The BLS tells us that this discrepancy has to do with a) the fact that the unemployment numbers are taken from a household survey and the employment numbers are taken from a survey of employers and b)something to do with the increase in the labor force in certain states. They also tell us that it means we really have no idea if this is good news, and we’ve just got to keep tracking the same numbers over time.

Arkansas and Montana both added 1,500 jobs last month.

Meanwhile, North Dakota, D.C., and Alaska are still doing better, employment-wise, than they were this time last year; all three states recorded a small increase in employment.

Anyway, is employment up or down nationwide? This report doesn’t add up the numbers to find the national unemployment rate—that’ll be out in a couple weeks for May— but we still don’t know totally what to think. We put in a call with the BLS to learn more. UPDATE: see updated graf above!