Special Report

States With the Highest Annual Unemployment

The number of unemployed workers in the United States dropped to 6.3 million last month, from 6.5 million in January. The nationwide unemployment rate dropped slightly to 3.8%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The positive change in February (243,000 fewer unemployed people) was largely due to jobs added to the economy, as well as in part to workers dropping out of the labor force for various reasons. While these economic indicators are often revised over the course of the year, last month’s improvement follows a relatively long pattern of monthly gains that held true for the nation as well as for most states over the course of 2021.

Following 2020, as states started centering policy priorities away from COVID precautions back towards their economies, unemployment rates fell fairly consistently across the country. This is how many people have died from COVID-19 in each state.

In 2021, the unemployment rate dropped every single month of the year in all but 12 states. The highest unemployment rate of the year was January in every state except Delaware (March and April), Iowa (April, May, June), Maine (April and June), and Maryland (August).

Looking at the year as a whole compared to 2020, the annual unemployment rate decreased in 49 states and the District of Columbia. One state had little change. Seventeen states had rate declines of at least 3.0 percentage points. Here are the states with the largest drops in unemployment between 2020 and last year.

Overall, the unemployment rate was lower than the U.S. figure of 5.3% in 25 states, higher in nine states and the District of Columbia, and not significantly different from the national rate in 16 states.

To identify the states with the highest unemployment last year, 24/7 Wall St. used 2021 annual unemployment rates by state from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployed population as well as the month with the highest unemployment rate were also obtained using BLS data for 2021. Total population and median household income comes from the 2019 American Community Survey 1-year Estimates. Monthly unemployment rates were seasonally adjusted.

Click here to see the states with the highest annual unemployment.

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