Lower unemployment and bankruptcies helped reduce the nation's economic stress in January compared with a year earlier, according to The Associated Press' monthly analysis. Still, the figures show the economy has yet to regain full health.
Midwestern and Southeastern states posted the strongest gains year over year, thanks to increased manufacturing, the AP's Economic Stress Index shows.
Stress declined in January in 34 states and in more than two-thirds of the nation's 3,141 counties. Year-to-year, unemployment was lower in nearly three-quarters of counties. And bankruptcies and foreclosures declined in nearly half.
Counties whose health improved most in the past 12 months tend to have heavy concentrations of workers in manufacturing, temporary, technical, professional and retail jobs. By contrast, counties with many people employed in construction, utilities and real estate suffered the sharpest increases in stress, according to the AP analysis.
The AP's index calculates a score from 1 to 100 based on unemployment, foreclosure and bankruptcy rates. A higher score signals more economic stress.