Weakness in Western energy-producing states helped raise the average U.S. county's economic stress in December to its highest point since the recession began in December 2007, according to The Associated Press' monthly analysis of conditions in more than 3,100 U.S. counties.
States such as Alaska, Wyoming and Montana lost jobs related in part to a drop in energy and mining exploration. Those states in the past had generally defied the national economy's weakness.
Economic strains in the final month of last year were evident throughout the nation. Foreclosure and bankruptcy rates rose even as the national unemployment rate held steady. The spillover to Western states was inevitable, some economists say.
"It's hard to stay above water when much of the rest of the country is going down around you," Sean Snaith, an economist at the University of Central Florida, said of those states.
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