The pandemic-driven surge in unemployment that began last March and April has eased considerably. However, levels are nowhere near their 50-year lows of 3.5% in January 2020. The job market did bounce back strongly enough so that the jobless rate in January 2021 was 6.3%.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics State Employment and Unemployment-January 2021 report shows that the January jobless rate was worse off in almost every state compared to the year before. That is, 48 states and the District of Columbia had unemployment rate increases from January 2020. Two states were statistically unchanged. The figures show the toll that the COVID-19 pandemic continued to take on the American jobs situation early this year.
The jobless rate by state varied considerably. Hawaii and California had the highest jobless rates in January, at 10.2% and 9.0%, respectively. At the far end of the spectrum, South Dakota and Utah had the lowest rates, each at 3.1%.
Consider that the unemployment rates in January 2021 for South Dakota and Utah were under the 50-year national unemployment low set a year ago. It shows the remarkable strength of their labor markets. Their numbers were also less than half the January 2021 national average.
The Hawaii January jobless figure of 10.2% is above the worst month nationally during the Great Recession. The nationwide figure was 10.0% for October 2009. At that point, America was in the grips of the worst economic period since the Great Depression nearly 70 years earlier.
The Hawaiian figure is more brutal than it seems at first. In January 2020, it had the lowest unemployment rate among all states at 2.0%. No other state has had a swing anywhere close to that between January 2020 and January 2021.
Hawaii’s problem can be summed up in one word: tourism. The pandemic and its effect on travel have been unusually crippling.
So, with numbers that are so terrible, what does the jobs forecast for the balance of the year look like? According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser:
Hawaii’s unemployment rate climbed back into double digits in January to retain the dubious honor of having the highest figure in the country.
But with tourism improving and the number of COVID-19 cases per capita the lowest of any state in the country, local economists say the outlook for the state is looking up.
These are the January jobless rates for selected states:
|District of Columbia||8.4|