In Massachusetts, home to the region's largest economy, the labor force contracted only 0.1 percent since the recession. Rena Kottcamp, director of economic research for the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance, said the state has benefited from "some recovery" as data show an increase in the number of people seeking work.

New Hampshire's workforce declined by fewer than 4,000 workers, or a half-percent, between 2008 and 2012. It's still a concern, said Bruce DeMay, director of the economic and labor market information bureau at the state's Employment Security office.

He attributed the loss of workers to a slow-growing population in the state. Discouraged workers who have quit seeking a job are few, amounting to about 3,000, he said.

"Most people, if they're unemployed, are out there looking," DeMay said.

Maine's labor force has remained largely unchanged.

Connecticut's labor force decline, if it holds after a possible federal revision, spells trouble for years, said Donald Klepper-Smith, an economic adviser to former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

"The labor force represents economic vitality and to the extent we lose workers, we lose economic growth down the road," he said.

Beck, who volunteers as an usher at a New York theater and makes a few dollars writing online theater reviews, says he's finding some fulfillment in unemployment financed by his pension that he's tapped early.

"I'm taking a hobby and living it," he said. "It's rewarding."

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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