The graphic below plots monthly jobs for every state, for the last four business cycles. The lines start 3 months prior to the onset of the recessions beginning in 1981, 1990, 2001 and 2007. Job losses or gains are indexed at "1" for the starting month of each national recession, and then run forward for 70 months (67 months, through July 2013, for the 2007 recession). The states are in blue (you can mouse over the lines to identify them) and the national numbers are in red. The dropdown menu allows you to narrow in on any combination of states.
First, and perhaps most starkly, it illustrates the uniformity of the 2007 downturn. While there are sharp state and regional differences (especially after 1981 and 1990) in the earlier recessions, 2007 was an equal opportunity crash. The states are clustered together as the descend into the recession, and as they climb slowly through the recovery. Only the energy boom outliers (the Dakotas, Texas, West Virginia, and Alaska) and Washington, DC escape the full brunt of the downturn. And only a few states hit hard by the housing crash (Florida, Arizona, Nevada) or the collapse in demand for consumer durables (Michigan) do significantly worse than the rest.
Second, it underscores the depth and duration of the latest downturn. In the earlier recessions, most states are "above water" after 24 or 30 months. Fully four years (48 months) after the 2007 crash, only the outliers noted above (ND, SD, TX, AK, WV and DC) had returned to their pre-recession job numbers. Five years in, only these and six others (UT, NY, OK, LA, MA) had reached that point. At 67 months (July 2013), only four more (IA, OK, NE, MT) had struggled above the line—leaving 35 states with fewer jobs than they had when Mike Huckabee was the Republican frontrunner to succeed George W. Bush.
Colin Gordon is a professor and director of Undergraduate Studies, 20th Century U.S. History, at the University of Iowa.