These states are suffering most from unemployment as coronavirus pandemic recovery lags


The number of jobs lost due to the coronavirus shutdown continue to mount, with the latest weekly total of Americans applying for unemployment benefits coming in at 840,000.

Read more: What to do before you lose your job

While some states have seen unemployment applications recede from record highs after the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. employment picture, others have suffered stubbornly high job losses months into the recovery. In some states, unemployment rates have shot higher than 20%.

Hawaii continues to lead the nation with the highest insured unemployment rate.
Hawaii continues to lead the nation with the highest insured unemployment rate.

According to the Department of Labor’s latest report, which breaks out the insured unemployment rate (a ratio of people on unemployment benefits divided by labor force) through September 19, Hawaii is still currently suffering the worst employment picture with a nation-leading insured unemployment rate of 20.1%. The Aloha state has suffered the highest insured unemployment rate in the U.S. since the week ending August 8.

California held steady at second on the list with an unemployment rate at 16.1%, while Nevada remained in the third spot with its own insured unemployment rate at 13.7%. The U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands both followed at 12.2% and 12.1%, respectively. All of the top regions are suffering from notably higher insured unemployment rates relative to the national average of 8.2% for the same week.

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 13 percentage points, down to about 14% from 27% during the week ended May 9.

The latest swath of unemployment insurance applications brings the total amount of jobless claims to roughly 60 million since the pandemic began to roil the job market in March.

Jobless claims have remained historically high over the course of the pandemic (David Foster/Yahoo Finance)
Jobless claims have remained historically high over the course of the pandemic (David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

And looking at unemployment statistics published last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which measures unemployment by the more traditional ratio of unemployed workers to the size of the labor force, Nevada notched the highest unemployment rate by that metric for the month of August at 13.2%, followed by Rhode Island at 12.8%, and Hawaii and New York, at 12.5% each. The report also showed Hawaii had been hardest hit since August 2019, suffering the largest unemployment rate increases since then at a rise of nearly 10 percentage points.

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.

Zack Guzman is the host of YFi PM as well as a senior writer and on-air reporter covering entrepreneurship, cannabis, startups, and breaking news at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @zGuz.

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