The final jobless claims report before the election showed the latest weekly total of Americans applying for unemployment benefits dropped slightly to 751,000.
While that number was slightly better than expected, the job losses racked up through the pandemic have contributed to a lumpy employment picture with some states recovering more quickly than others. Unemployment applications nationally have receded from the record high of more than 6 million weekly claims back in April, but a closer look at the state-level filings reveals some regions continue to suffer from stubbornly high job losses months into the recovery.
According to the Department of Labor’s latest report, which breaks out the insured unemployment rate (a ratio of people on unemployment benefits divided by labor force) at the state level through October 10, Hawaii is still suffering the worst employment picture with a nation-leading insured unemployment rate of 12.6%. The Aloha state has suffered the highest insured unemployment rate in the U.S. since the week ending August 8.
California held steady at second on the list with an unemployment rate at 10.5%, while Nevada remained in the third spot with its own insured unemployment rate at 10%. Georgia and the District of Columbia followed at 8.3% and 7.9%, respectively. All of the top regions are suffering from notably higher insured unemployment rates relative to the national average of 5.8% for the same week.
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Compared to pre-pandemic levels, those unemployment rates are notably higher than the worst states listed in the week ended February 22. Back then, Alaska topped the nation with a similar unemployment rate at just 2.9%. As high as the unemployment rates are now in the hardest hit states, they have still marginally improved from peaks seen months prior. Nevada, for example, has seen its unemployment rate improve more than 17 percentage points, down to 10% from 27% during the week ended May 9.
The latest swath of unemployment insurance applications brings the total amount of jobless claims to more than 60 million since the pandemic began to roil the job market in March.
Looking at unemployment statistics published earlier in October by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which measures unemployment by the more traditional ratio of unemployed workers to the size of the labor force, Hawaii also notched the highest unemployment rate by that metric for the month of October at 15.1%, followed by Nevada at 12.6%. The report also showed Hawaii had been hardest hit since September 2019, suffering the largest unemployment rate increases since then, rising by more than 12 percentage points.
The state only recently reopened for travelers opting to show a negative COVID-19 test. Up until two weeks ago, travelers had to quarantine for 14 days after landing on the island. Hawaii Airlines CEO Peter Ingram told Yahoo Finance last week that the change is “turning a page” for Hawaii’s recovery. Compared to last week, Hawaii saw its insured unemployment rate drop by more than 2 percentage points from 14.9%.
As a Yahoo Finance review of jobless claims data showed earlier, some states are recovering more quickly than others, but all are still struggling with varying economic restrictions tied to controlling the spread of the coronavirus.