God plays dice

Quick: in April 2012, how many US states have an employment rate at or above the national average? (Hint: the US has 51 states or state-equivalents. I’m counting DC.)

Here’s the data by state; the national rate is 8.1 percent. That gives seventeen states. Only one-third of the states have rates above average.

This actually isn’t that surprising, once you look at the data — states with large population have larger unemployment rates. (I’m not an economist; why should this be?) In the plot below we have unemployment on the y-axis and log (base 10) of population on the x-axis. The dotted line represents the average unemployment rate of 8.1 percent; you can see that most states are above it. The upward slope indicates that low-population states have lower unemployment rates than high-population states. The solid line is the least-squares regression line for predicting unemployment from log population.

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