Skip to main content
The FRED® Blog

Hawaii rises to the top in state-level labor productivity growth

New data from the BLS track output per hour worked in 2020

Join us on a road trip of FRED data in search of labor productivity.

The FRED Blog recently compared the increase in labor productivity during the COVID-19-induced recession with labor productivity in past recessions. Today, we use a recently added data set on state-level productivity from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to compare labor productivity across states.

First, labor productivity is output per hour worked. So, when labor productivity increases, an hour of work yields more output, which means more goods produced or more services delivered with the same amount of effort.

The GeoFRED map above shows the percent growth in labor productivity in Hawaii during 2020. The residents of the very last state to join the Union (August 21, 1959) recorded the fastest growth in labor productivity last year: 8.5%.

How did the other states fare? The second GeoFRED map shows Nevadans were not far behind Hawaii residents, as productivity in the Silver State grew 8%. But the blue coloring in the map shows states where productivity growth was negative during 2020. In descending order, an hour of work yielded fewer goods and services than during the previous year for Montanans, Oklahomans, Tennesseans, South Dakotans, and Idahoans.

The regional differences in labor productivity growth likely reflect idiosyncratic state economies. For example, goods manufacturing plays a much larger role in Oklahoma than in Hawaii. In that light, the uneven impact of the COVID-19-induced recession on the nationwide consumption and production of goods and services would have different impacts on state-level output, hours worked, and—ultimately—labor productivity.

How these maps were created: From GeoFRED, click on “Build new map” (green button, northeast corner of the screen) and then click on “Tools” (orange cogwheel button, northwest corner). Under “Region” select “State,” under “Data” select “Labor Productivity for Private Nonfarm,” and under “Date” select 2020. Zoom and move around the map to find the desired view. You can also edit the colors, legend, and labels.

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.

The recovery in leisure and hospitality employment

The FRED Blog has previously looked at the negative impact of social distancing on employment levels in the leisure and hospitality industry. Today, one year later, we take a look at how the overall economic recovery is reflected in this industry.

The GeoFRED map above shows the percent change between May 2020 and May 2021 of employment levels in the leisure and hospitality industry for each state. The data are seasonally adjusted, meaning they correct for the recurring ups and downs in activity during any given year. For example, winter ice fishing in North Dakota or summer vacationing in Florida.

Overall, the number of employees in the leisure and hospitality industry increased from May 2020 to May 2021 by a stunning average of 42%. The smallest increase was 20% in Oklahoma, and the largest increase was 73% in Delaware.

The high-growth states, with increases in employment of over 60%, are in dark green. Eight of these ten states are concentrated in the Northeast, including, in ascending order, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Delaware.

Low-growth states (in purple) were mainly concentrated in the southern region of the U.S.

Ok. So employment has rebounded. But has it returned to pre-pandemic levels?

The bar graph above shows the level of employment in leisure and hospitality in May 2021 as a fraction of May 2019 employment. From this graph, we see that only one state has reached (and even slightly exceeded) its pre-pandemic level of employment: Idaho.

The rest of the states still lag behind in their recovery, and this graph suggests there may be opportunities for employment growth in this sector. Where are these opportunities more abundant? Relative to 2019, the Northeast states, where employment contracted the most last year, still have plenty of jobs to fill. Overall, the pandemic and ensuing recession had a large impact in the leisure and hospitality industry but employment opportunities in the sector are recovering rapidly.

How this map was created: In GeoFRED, click on “Tools” and select the “Choose Data” tab. First, select “Region Type: State.” Next, search for “All Employees: Leisure and Hospitality, Seasonally Adjusted, Monthly, Thousands of Persons.” Change the units to “Percent Change from Year Ago” and edit the legend by entering the following values: -74, -60, -50, -40, -30. Lastly, change the color to a divergent palette of your choice.

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo and Victoria Yin.

Real residential property prices: United States vs. Australia

Residential property can reveal insights about the financial stability of a country’s economy. The FRED graph above shows the annual changes in the residential property prices for both the United States and Australia for the past 20 years. While the size and location of properties obviously affect residential property tax values, so do the financing of these properties and financial market conditions.

For example, the Financial Crisis of 2008 dramatically dampened U.S. property prices. The U.S. house price index reflects the economic turmoil during that time, when annual house prices declined as much as 19.6% in the third quarter of 2008 from their levels during the same quarter of the previous year. The crisis also trickled down to Australia, causing local property prices to decline, although not as deeply as in the U.S.

In 2019, price declines in Australia’s housing market repeated those from 2008. While Australia’s economy was doing relatively well before this occurred (interest rates and unemployment were relatively low), policies were put in place to enforce tighter lending standards for housing. This caused property prices to decrease, which led to fewer jobs in careers such as construction, insurance, contracting, and so on. This, in return, caused a decrease in spending, which hurt Australia’s economy.

How this graph was created: Search FRED for “real residential property prices” and click on the U.S. series. From the “Edit Graph” panel, use the “Add Line” tab to search for and select the Australian series. Change the units to “Percent Change from Year Ago” then click “Copy to all.” Finally, start the graph on 2000-01-22.

Suggested by Natalie Robinson and Maria A. Arias.

Subscribe to the FRED newsletter

Follow us

Back to Top