Special Report

39 States Where People Gave Up Looking for Jobs During the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the U.S. labor market. Millions of Americans lost their jobs or had their hours reduced, as many businesses were shut down temporarily or for good. 

Though spiking unemployment figures were widely publicized, another segment of the U.S. population grew as well — discouraged workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines discouraged workers as people “who have looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months, but were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.” 

From the fourth quarter of 2019 to the fourth quarter of 2020, the number of discouraged workers in America increased by nearly 200,000, up to 574,300. This indicates that thousands of Americans who had already been out of work gave up looking for jobs, as career opportunities became scarce. (These are the 25 lowest-paying jobs in America.)

Though the number of discouraged workers increased in nearly every state, in some, this population more than doubled or even tripled. On the average nationwide, the number of discouraged workers increased by more than 66% from Q4 2019 to Q4 2020. 

The news wasn’t all bad. Despite the economic circumstances, with every state reporting increasing unemployment figures, 11 states actually had a declining number of discouraged workers — Alabama, Utah, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Kentucky, Louisiana, Indiana, Arizona, Montana, Delaware, Idaho — and a 12th, South Dakota, reported no change. These are the American cities that added jobs during the pandemic.

To determine the states where people gave up looking for jobs, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the percentage change between discouraged workers in Q4 2019 and Q4 2020. Labor force and unemployment data was also obtained from the BLS. Population change was calculated based on annual population figures published by the current population survey.

Click here to see 39 states where people gave up looking for jobs during the pandemic.