Dear Commons Community,
The coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll on the economy especially with regard to unemployment. The number of jobs lost keeps mounting, with the latest weekly total of Americans applying for unemployment benefits coming in at 860,000.
Last week’s unemployment applications brings the total amount of jobless claims to roughly 60 million since the pandemic began, wiping out the 20 million jobs added over the last decade by a three-to-one margin.
While some states have seen unemployment applications recede from record highs after the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. employment picture in March, some have suffered stubbornly high job losses months into the recovery. In some states unemployment rates shot as high as 20%.
According to the Department of Labor’s latest report (see graphic above), which breaks out the insured unemployment rate (a ratio of people on unemployment benefits divided by labor force) through August 29, Hawaii is currently suffering the worst employment picture with a nation-leading insured unemployment rate of 20.3%. California jumped up to second on the list with a similar unemployment rate at 17.3%. Nevada held firm in the third spot with its own insured unemployment rate at 15.6%. All three states are suffering from notably higher insured unemployment rates relative to the nation average for the same week at 9.3%.
New York and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico round out the top five worst job markets, with insured unemployment rates at 15% and 14.1%, respectively.
Compared to pre-pandemic levels, those unemployment rates are notably higher than the worst states listed in the week ended February 22. Back then, Alaska topped the nation with a similar unemployment rate at just 2.9%. As high as the unemployment rates are now in the hardest hit states, they have still marginally improved from peaks seen months prior. Nevada, for example, has seen its unemployment rate improve more than 10 percentage points, down to about 16% from 27% during the week ended May 9.
Looking at unemployment statistics published in August by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which measures unemployment by the more traditional ratio of unemployed workers to the size of the labor force, Massachusetts notched the highest unemployment rate by that metric for the month of July at 16.1% followed by New York at 15.9%.
As a Yahoo Finance review of jobless claims data showed earlier, some states are recovering more quickly than others, but all are still struggling with varying economic restrictions tied to controlling the spread of the coronavirus.
The greater concern is how long it will take for unemployment to pick up again even after a vaccine is found for COVID-19.