The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released unemployment figures for March 2008. Since March 2007, unemployment has increased by more than 11% around the South, from an overall average of 4.5% to 5.0%.

Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee had the highest increases in unemployment. Virginia also had a large increase percentage-wise, but the unemployment rate remains significantly lower than the region.

Mississippi saw a 6.3% reduction in the unemployment rate, but theirs remains the highest in the region. Arkansas reduced unemployment to just below the regional average.

The good news is that unemployment in the South is slightly lower than the overall U.S. unemployment rate of 5.1%.
 

Unemployment Mar 2007 Mar 2008 Change % Change
Alabama 3.4% 4.1% 0.7% 20.6%
Arkansas 5.3% 4.9% -0.4% -7.5%
Florida 3.7% 4.9% 1.2% 32.4%
Georgia 4.2% 5.3% 1.1% 26.2%
Kentucky 5.6% 5.7% 0.1% 1.8%
Louisiana 3.9% 4.5% 0.6% 15.4%
Mississippi 6.4% 6.0% -0.4% -6.3%
North Carolina 4.5% 5.2% 0.7% 15.6%
South Carolina 5.7% 5.7% 0.0% 0.0%
Tennessee 4.5% 5.6% 1.1% 24.4%
Virginia 2.9% 3.7% 0.8% 27.6%
West Virginia 4.4% 4.7% 0.3% 6.8%
Region Average 4.5% 5.0% 0.5% 11.1%


Just out of curiosity, we looked at the percentage of employees with union representation as reported by the BLS:
 

Union representation 2000 2007 Change % Change
Alabama 10.5% 10.6% 0.1% 1.0%
Arkansas 6.8% 6.5% -0.3% -4.4%
Florida 8.7% 7.3% -1.4% -16.1%
Georgia 7.5% 5.4% -2.1% -28.0%
Kentucky 13.8% 11.1% -2.7% -19.6%
Louisiana 9.3% 6.5% -2.8% -30.1%
Mississippi 9.6% 8.9% -0.7% -7.3%
North Carolina 4.8% 3.9% -0.9% -18.8%
South Carolina 5.2% 5.9% 0.7% 13.5%
Tennessee 10.3% 6.4% -3.9% -37.9%
Virginia 7.4% 4.8% -2.6% -35.1%
West Virginia 15.6% 14.7% -0.9% -5.8%


Note that with few exceptions, the states with the largest decline in union representation from 2000 to 2007 also have a corresponding higher increase in unemployment. There are obviously many other factors (overall loss of manufacturing jobs v. new auto manufacturing jobs that are typically union, etc.). Correlating unemployment to declining union representation is beyond the scope of this report, but it's interesting and perhaps worth exploring.