One of America’s richest states based on median household income had the highest unemployment rate in June, according to data from the State Employment and Unemployment Summary published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The jobless rate in Massachusetts was remarkably high at 17.4%. The median household income in the state is $79,835, which puts it fourth among all states by that measure.
The national unemployment rate in June was 11.1%, which is higher than the worst level in the Great Recession at 10% in October 2009. That year, some economists said the figure was among the greatest job calamities since the late 1920s and early 1930s.
The state with the second-highest unemployment rate was New Jersey, at 16.6%, followed by New York at 15.7%. To put the Massachusetts figure in context, in June the jobless rate in Kentucky, which was the best among all states, was 4.3%.
Why has Massachusetts been hit so hard? Nationally, jobs in some parts of the tech industry, a dominant part of the Massachusetts economy, were hard hit. The same is the case with teachers, as schools were shuttered. The job categories that did the best in June were agriculture and manufacturing, which are not large parts of the Massachusetts workforce.
Medical jobs were particularly hard hit in June. Despite the need for medical services during the pandemic, many private doctors faced economic hardship. Many hospitals cut staff because they could not do procedures that make a great deal of money. Five of the 10 largest employers in the state are medical institutions: Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Dan Farber Cancer Institute, Boston Children’s Hospital and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Other hospital centers are among the 20 largest employers in the state.
Workers in Massachusetts have been unfortunate because the state’s largest industries have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 economic downturn. As many of these industries are unlikely to improve, the state’s jobless rate probably will stay well above the national average.