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COVID & Unemployment

There are big variations in the state-by-state unemployment picture

Mitchell Hartman Sep 21, 2020
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States that rely heavily on face-to-face service jobs, like New York, have the highest unemployment. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
COVID & Unemployment

There are big variations in the state-by-state unemployment picture

Mitchell Hartman Sep 21, 2020
Heard on:
States that rely heavily on face-to-face service jobs, like New York, have the highest unemployment. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The national unemployment rate has fallen from nearly 15% in April down to 8.4% percent last month.

That number, however, masks some big differences in how states are recovering from the huge job losses resulting from the pandemic.

States that rely heavily on face-to-face service jobs have the highest unemployment. Nevada, Hawaii, California and New York have unemployment rates ranging from 11% to more than 13%.

“Travel, tourism, hospitality, dining — those states continue to be hit hard here,” said Jill Gonzalez with the personal finance website WalletHub.

It also matters when and how hard the pandemic hit. Daniel Sternberg at HR platform Gusto said, according to his data, New York still hasn’t recovered all the small business jobs it lost in the spring.

“Because we saw such large declines in some of the service sector, food and beverage, etc., early in the crisis,” Sternberg said.

There are some farm states doing much better. Gonzalez said their main industries, “were simply not as affected by COVID-19. So agriculture, grocery stores, certainly needed those shipments in.”

So unemployment rates in Idaho, Nebraska, South Dakota and Vermont have now fallen below 5%.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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