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Will the U.S. avoid recession in 2016? Check your map

A burst in hiring by employers last month, along with other positive economic signals, has many experts predicting that the U.S. economy will avoid a downturn this year. For millions of Americans, however, such forecasts are already off the mark.

Four states -- Alaska, North Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming -- are already in recession, while states including Illinois, Wisconsin, Louisiana and Mississippi have all slowed in recent months.

Other parts of the U.S. are also lagging the broader recovery, which has lowered the nation's unemployment rate to 4.9 percent, the lowest level in more than eight years. The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City in February reported a slowdown in its district (which includes Colorado, western Missouri, Nebraska, northern New Mexico, Oklahoma and Wyoming), as the region's large agriculture and sectors downshifted amid slowing global demand for oil and other commodities.

"We have seen negative readings for a year," said economist Chad Wilkerson of the Kansas City Fed. "It is a combination of a strong dollar and weaker exports as related to the folks here that manufacture equipment used by the energy industry."

"We are seeing some modest declines year over year and declines in all our states, except Oklahoma -- that was propped up by energy and cattle -- but even there we are seeing a slight decline as well," he added of states in the Fed bank's district. "Our operating oil rigs are now down about two-thirds, yet production is only down five to ten percent."

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In a survey, local energy producers told Kansas City Fed researchers that oil prices would have to hit $60 a barrel for them to restart pumping at idled wells. Survey participants don't expect that to happen until 2o17.

Benchmark U.S. crude traded Tuesday at $36.50 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, hovered around $39.65.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, meanwhile, the value of farmland in the region fell 3 percent in 2015, with 60 percent of respondents to a farm industry survey predicting further declines this year.

It isn't unusual for economic conditions to vary significantly by region. In the mid-1980s, for instance, a sharp drop in global oil prices triggered a regional recession in U.S. energy-producing states. As a whole, however, the country saw an expansion both in employment and gross domestic product.

Today, by contrast, the spread of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," around the U.S. in the oil and gas sector has increased the economy's exposure to global energy markets.

"One thing that is different from the 1980s and now is that, thanks to fracking, you have a different oil and gas footprint, with multiple states that are now producing. So any energy price fluctuation will be sure to have a broader impact," said Dan Kowalski, the director of industry research for CoBank, a co-operatively owned bank that specializes in servicing rural business across the nation.

Looking at the U.S. economy from a county level reveals a wide disparity in regional conditions. Economic growth in counties within the same state can vary greatly, with one area in robust recovery and a neighboring county mired in a slump.

"Our members have to look at the local economy. It's when you look at the map of counties and you'll see the past positive results for the economy in Texas and up though the western Corn Belt west of the Mississippi," Kowalski told CBS MoneyWatch. "But you could find other counties in the vast majority of states that have not recovered at all from the Great Recession all these years later."

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