The economic disaster brought on by COVID1-19 has caused millions of people to lose their jobs. Unemployment nationwide was 10.2% in July, worse than any month in the Great Recession. In one state, the situation is much worse. The unemployment rate in Massachusetts was 16.1% last month, which is 58% above the national average.
Almost no states had jobless rates close to that of Massachusetts last month. New York’s was 15.9%. No other state had a jobless rate above 14%. At the other end of the spectrum, the unemployment rate in Utah was 4.5%. It was 4.8% in Nebraska.
Massachusetts had one of the lowest unemployment rates among the states in July 2019, at only 2.9%. So, what happened?
Employment in Massachusetts is dominated by higher education, biotechnology, information technology, finance, health care, tourism, manufacturing and defense. Tourism has been one of the hardest-hit sectors since the pandemic started. WBUR in Boston pointed out that leisure and hospitality in the state were badly crippled. Another large portion of jobs is in the retail sector, which was decimated as the coronavirus crisis kept people out of stores.
Massachusetts does have a stable base of jobs in some industries. Five of the 10 largest employers in the state are medical centers and hospitals. Another set is tech, which includes Oracle and Dell. Universities like MIT and Harvard are also relatively large employers.
Based on the sectors where people work, a rebound in tourism and retail could bring the employment situation in Massachusetts back fairly quickly, and take it out of the jobless basement among all the states. Realistically, however, 2.9% is a thing of the past.