From the horrible April 2020 national unemployment rate of 14.7%, brought on by the pandemic, the jobless rate has recovered to about 6%, which still remains well above the level of January and February 2020 when the rate was at a five-decade low. As vaccination rates have risen and the number of daily new cases and deaths have dropped, more and more people have returned to work. Recently Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she expects full employment again by next year.
Every month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics produces its “State Employment and Unemployment” report. The most recent covered March when the national rate was 6%. The key set of figures in the report:
Nonfarm payroll employment increased in 29 states and was essentially unchanged in 21 states and the District of Columbia in March 2021. Over the year, nonfarm payroll employment decreased in 46 states and the District and was essentially unchanged in 4 states.
The recovery has been uneven, particularly in terms of jobs. The state with the worst unemployment figure in March was Hawaii at 9%, or 50% higher than the national average. The states with the lowest figures, at 2.9% were Nebraska, South Dakota, Utah, and Vermont.
Because Hawaii is the most isolated state based on geography, it was not nearly as hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic as some other states. However, in terms of jobs, it paid a terrible price. The island state mostly kept out the tourists that feed its economy as a means to keep its infections down. While the plan worked to a large extent, hotels, resorts, and restaurants were shuttered for months.
The situation, while still difficult, has recovered from the worst of it particularly in several hard-hit cities. Last June, ABC reported:
The unemployment rate in Kahului skyrocketed to 35% in April — nearly 10% higher than the national unemployment rate at the peak of the Great Depression — and the highest of any metropolitan area in the U.S., according to the latest data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
More recently, the press has recorded an improvement. San Francisco’s SFGate reported: “As the world continues vaccination and reopening efforts, Hawaii plans to continue the program through 2021.” The report added that experts expect herd immunity across the state by July.
Hawaii has the worst unemployment across all states, but it appears that could change soon.