Western Blue Chip Current Outlook

February 7, 2019

The states included in the Western Blue Chip Economic Forecast are Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.


As the economic expansion continues, labor market indicators are reaching notable milestones nationally and in the Western states. With the release of the January employment report from the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. economy has now added jobs for 100 consecutive months.  In November 2018, Black unemployment dipped to an historic low of 6.0 percent. The September and November 2018 overall U.S. unemployment rates, at 3.7 percent, were the lowest since the 3.4 percent rate of May 1969.

Idaho’s December unemployment rate of 2.6 percent was fourth lowest in the nation (behind Iowa, Hawaii, and New Hampshire) and lowest among the Western states.  The Idaho unemployment rate was a historic low for the state, as was Washington’s December reading of 4.3 percent (see table).  California posted an all-time low unemployment rate of 4.1 percent in November and Oregon’s 3.8 percent in October was also a record low for the state.

Unemployment Rates in Western States (December 2018)

State Rate Historic 50-year Low
Idaho 2.6% 2.6% (December 2018)
Washington 4.3% 4.3% (December 2018)
California 4.2% 4.1% (November 2018)
Oregon 4.1% 3.8% (October 2018)
Colorado 3.5% 2.6% (May 2017)
New Mexico 4.7% 3.7% (September 2007)
Arizona 4.8% 3.6% (July 2007)
Utah 3.2% 2.4% (April 2007)
Texas 3.7% 2.4% (April 2007)
Montana 3.7% 2.9% (February 2007)
Nevada 4.4% 3.8% (February 1999)
Wyoming 4.1% 2.5% (May 1979)
United States 3.9% 3.4% (May 1969)

  Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Both California and Oregon were on an economic roller coaster during the business cycle, moving from high points to low points, with California recording an all-time high unemployment rate (12.3 percent) in November of 2010 and Oregon posting a record high (11.9 percent) in May of 2009, as labor markets in the Great Recession were bottoming out.  Colorado’s unemployment rates show a similar pattern, reaching an all-time high (8.9 percent) in December of 2010, and bouncing back to an all-time low (2.6 percent) in May 2017, earlier than other Western states.