Over the last five years, our economy has made great strides toward reducing unemployment. Today, unemployment stands at 5.5%, down from a high of 10.0%. There is still ground to make up, but we are decisively headed in the right direction. And this isn’t just a top line success story — it is an achievement that has been realized all across the country.
Between 2013 and 2014, for the first time in 30 years, average annual unemployment declined in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. From Illinois, which observed a 2 percentage point decline in unemployment, to Alabama, millions of Americans went back to work in 2014. This is no small feat.
At the depths of the Great Recession, 15.3 million Americans were unemployed. A diverse set of policies helped not only turn our economy around but address the specific needs of our states. From the implementation of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which helped fund shovel ready jobs in states like Indiana and California to the auto industry recovery, which saved hundreds of thousands of jobs in Michigan alone, the Obama Administration has used targeted efforts to help Americans in all corners of our country. Renewing our commitment to these strategies, through for example substantial further investment in transportation infrastructure would help bring unemployment down even more quickly.
As we settle into 2015, it is clear that strong winds are still in our sails. Already we have seen accelerated job growth, and a continued reduction in unemployment. If our economy stays on this track, states are poised to continue seeing reduced unemployed well into 2015.
Dr. Heidi Shierholz is the chief economist at the Labor Department