The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has posted its “State Employment and Unemployment Summary” for November. The national rate of the month was 6.7%, light years better than the double-digit figures at the start of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, but 3.2% higher than the same month the year before. At that point, the U.S. jobless rate was at a five-decade low. Despite the rebound, some states have not had unemployment rates drop below 10%. One, New Jersey, has a jobless rate of 10.2%, which is higher than the worst level of the Great Recession.
In November, jobless rates were lower in 25 states and the District of Columbia, higher in seven states and flat in 18 states compared to October. The report stated: “Three states had unemployment rates above 10.0 percent in November: New Jersey at 10.2 percent and Hawaii and Nevada at 10.1 percent each. Nebraska and Vermont had the lowest rates, 3.1 percent each.” Notably, the rates in Nebraska and Vermont were better than the national rate at its 2019 record low. It is a sign of how uneven the recovery has been since April.
New Jersey has had several disadvantages. One theory is that because COVID-19 has hit New Jersey so badly that its jobs situation has not recovered. The state has posted 447,083 confirmed cases. With 18,466 fatal cases, its deaths are nearly as high as in larger states such as California, Texas and Florida. In counties near hard-hit New York City, the COVID-19 situation is much worse.
Some of New Jersey’s largest employers have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. This includes United Airlines, Rutgers and several other universities. To its benefit, the state has more stable employers, including AT&T and Merck. Clearly, on balance, the job situation has not favored the state.
Because it was long enough ago, many Americans do not remember when national unemployment hit 10% in 2008. That was considered the largest jobs disaster since the Great Depression. New Jersey is currently worse.
Unemployment nationwide may start to rise again if a federal package to create new jobs remains stuck in Washington. If so, New Jersey’s figures won’t recover and actually may worsen.