COVID-19 Economic Crisis: By State

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Key Findings

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Every state in the country is well down from its February employment levels—19 states have payroll job loss over 10% and 47 states have lost over 5% of their jobs.

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Forty-three states have lost more jobs than they did in the Great Recession.

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The states with the greatest job loss are the states with the most COVID-19 cases or which rely most on hospitality industries.

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In every state lower wage industries have lost far more jobs than high wage industries. 

Every state in the country is well down from its February employment levels despite a recovery of many jobs in May and June. With the failure to contain COVID-19 and the growing number of cases and deaths, even that relatively small recovery is in great jeopardy in July.

As of mid-June, job losses have been worse than in the Great Recession for 43 states. Even the state with the smallest drop in employment, Utah, has lost 4.5% of its payroll jobs. Nationally there was an increase of 4.8 million jobs from mid-May to mid-June but that still left the country down 14.7 million payroll jobs—9.6% of the pre-recession total. Unfortunately, the employment situation appears to have deteriorated since then as COVID-19 cases have been on the rise. Unemployment insurance claims continue at highly elevated levels, indicating that millions of people are still losing their jobs.

Almost every industry has felt the impact in nearly every state. For instance, the Accommodation and Food Services industry lost 37.1% of its jobs in Pennsylvania, but Construction employment is also down 8.7% and Manufacturing employment is down 6.2% in the state. Some industries in some states have rebounded completely—Finance and Insurance has returned to pre-recession levels in eleven states, for example—but those are the exceptions.

The states that have been hardest hit in employment are states that have either been hardest hit by COVID-19 or that rely heavily on hard-hit industries.

Official data on the overall level of economic activity lags employment data, but the Gross Domestic Product for every state declined in the first quarter of 2020 with New York and Nevada having the most precipitous decline, each with a drop of 8.2%.

Map 1 compares states in the percent change in the number of payroll jobs between the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) February survey and the June survey (covering payroll periods containing June 12). Selecting a state on the map will reveal additional data about that state.

Net job loss in states has ranged from Hawaii and New York with 16.6% and 15.7% of jobs lost since February, respectively, to Utah which has lost 4.5% of its jobs. Nineteen states have seen a net decline of jobs of over 10% and 47 states have lost more than 5% of their jobs.

May to June saw job increases in every state, although no state came close to recovering all its previously lost employment. The two states that showed the largest improvement from May to June, as a percent of pre-recession employment, were states that previously had experienced some of the largest job losses in the country: Michigan and Nevada. They are, however, still extremely hard hit—now ranking 5th and 11th in the percent of payroll jobs that have been lost.

  1. Employment data used here are seasonally adjusted, meaning that the Bureau of Labor Statistics accounts for normal seasonal variation in employment due to various factors.
  2. Small differences between states in the percent job change may not be statistically significant.

The hardest hit sector nationally, and in every state, has been Leisure and Hospitality, in which the Accommodation and Food Services industry has lost 27% of its employment, or 3.9 million jobs, and the Arts, Entertainment and Recreation industry has lost 37%, or 909,000 jobs as of June. New York has seen the biggest net drop in Accommodation and Food Services—down 53%, 417,700 thousand jobs, despite gaining 71,800 jobs from May to June.

The next hardest hit industry was Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services, which is in the Professional and Business Services sector and includes the particularly hard hit category of temporary help services. Nationally, the decline was 13.8% from February to June, with Michigan seeing the largest drop at 24.5%. Michigan is still down 70,700 jobs after regaining 19,900 in June.

Government employment has continued to fall across the country. Overall for the country, state government employment has dropped 5.5% since February and local government employment by 8.2%. State and local governments combined have lost 1.5 million jobs since February. The government of Wisconsin has cut 19.7% of its jobs according to these data. Local governments in Connecticut reduced their employment by 15.4%.

As discussed more later, the labor intensive Retail, and Health Care and Social Assistance, industries have contributed greatly to total job losses in every state, though in percentage terms they have been less hard hit than the hardest-hit industries, nationally losing 8.1% and 6.9% of jobs respectively as of June. 

Map 1 can display individual sectors and industries as well as employment for all sectors and industries. The table in addendum 1 shows a top-to-bottom ranking, sortable by percentage change, total employment change, and state name—it shows the change in jobs from February to June as well as May to June. The table can list employment for all sectors and industries, or individual sectors and industries. Descriptions of each sector and industry can be found on the BLS website.

Chart 1 compares (1) the change in number of jobs during the Great Recession (December 2007 to June 2009), (2) job loss in the current crisis through mid-June (February to June), and (3) job change in each month from March through June. Comparisons can be viewed for the nation or a selected state, district, or territory as well as for total payroll employment or a selected sector or industry. 

In total employment, 43 states are down more jobs than they lost from their peak employment to their low point in the Great Recession. Forty-eight states have lost more jobs than during the Great Recession in Accommodation and Food Services, 44 have lost more in Heath Care and Social Assistance, and 46 have lost more in local government. 

Most states gained jobs in most industries in June even as those gains left them far short of their February levels. No industry was in positive territory nationally in total employment as of June, but some states have seen employment completely recover in a few industries.

  1. Employment data are seasonally adjusted.

Chart 2 shows in stark fashion how catastrophic the job loss has been. Between February and April, in every state, all or most of the jobs gained since the Great Recession were lost. This is a sharp reversal from the steady climb that began in 2010, accelerated starting in 2012, and had slackened in the last few years. May and June have seen a rebound but it is far short of the drop.

The causes of the Great Recession and the current crisis are very different, and the paths to recovery will be different. Most obviously, the economic path is being significantly dictated by the success or failure in bringing COVID-19 under control. With cases on the rise in July, unemployment insurance claims are also on the rise. The immediate path forward will depend on the national response to the COVID-19 disease and whether the federal government takes adequate steps to address the economic fallout.

 

  1. Employment data are seasonally adjusted.

Even in the best of circumstances, problems will certainly linger as some industries will continue to face substantial headwinds and begin the recovery process significantly weakened. Until the risks of COVID-19 decline significantly, limitations on human contact such as social distancing, and understandable reluctance by consumers to resume all normal activities, will impinge on the operations of many industries. These will be a drag on the economy more broadly. Lower employment and reduced activity in any industry have spillover into other industries as economic demand is weakened. In addition, many employers will be depleted or have ceased operations, and it will take some time to fully recover. The upward line to come will not be as pronounced as the downward line so visible in Chart 2. How pronounced it will be is the critical economic question for coming months and years.

Chart 3 shows the changes in employment for the selected jurisdiction for each industry (or for some states, sector). In every state Accommodation and Food Services has contributed the most to job loss. Health Care and Social Assistance, Retail, and Administrative and Support and Waste Management Services have also been hard hit in every state. Within Health Care and Social Assistance, industry losses nationally have been mostly in Ambulatory Health Care Services, including physician and dentist offices. Hospitals, residential care, and Social Assistance also saw significant declines. Included in Social Assistance is Child Day Care, which saw a drop in employment nationally of 25% by June. Selecting the bars in the charts will show the job changes February to June and May to June.

  1. “SA” indicates that the data for the sector or industry are seasonally adjusted. “NSA” indicates that the data are not seasonally adjusted.

Chart 4 shows the relationship between job loss and average weekly wages for each industry. The overwhelming number of jobs lost have been in low-paying industries. Nationally, Accommodation and Food Service had lost over 3.9 million jobs (a 27% decline) by June and had an average weekly pay of $436 in the third quarter of 2019 (the latest period for which data are generally available). Health Care and Social Assistance had lost about 1.4 million jobs in this time period, Retail had lost 1.3 million jobs and Administrative and Support and Waste Management Services had also lost 1.3 million jobs. These industries' average weekly pay nationally was $988, $640 and $809 respectively. Meanwhile, industries such as Management of Companies and Enterprises, and Finance and Insurance, each had lost fewer than 100,000 jobs and had average weekly pay of $2,127, and $1,812, respectively.

  1. Hourly pay levels are not available as comprehensively as weekly wages at the state level so they are not used here, but the pattern for hourly wages is similar to the pattern for weekly wages.

These wage levels are, of course, averages across a wide range of jobs within the industries. Finance and Insurance includes both the heads of Wall Street firms and bank tellers. It is clear, however, that job loss has been significantly more acute in low-wage jobs than high-wage jobs. Census Bureau data show that there have been more workers with employment income decline in low-income than high-income households.

Low-wage employees are obviously much more heavily impacted by job loss. They have less in savings, and those who had employer-provided health insurance are less likely to be able to afford continuing coverage. 

Table 1 shows the percentages of job loss for each industry in the country, selected state, district, or territory. Industries with more employees are, of course, more likely to contribute more greatly to the total numbers of job losses shown in Charts 3 and 4—just as larger states contribute the most to national job loss. From the perspective of an employee, customer, owner, or other stakeholder in an industry, the level of impact is measured best by the percent of jobs in the industry that have been lost. It is notable that, for the most part, the reason the most jobs have been lost in low-wage industries and the fewest in high-wage industries (as highlighted by Chart 4) is not just that low-wage industries employed more people prior to the current crisis. Higher paying industries, while certainly feeling an impact, have lost a much smaller share of their jobs. A waiter, for example, is much more likely to have lost his or her job than a banker.

  1. “SA” indicates that the data for the sector or industry are seasonally adjusted. “NSA” indicates that the data are not seasonally adjusted.

Chart 5 shows the relationship between state job loss and cases of COVID per-100,000 in population, as of June. Of the 10 states with the greatest job loss, 5 were in the top 10 in COVID-19 cases when the June jobs data were collected. The outliers with higher job loss and lower numbers of COVID cases (as of June) are mostly states that rank high in their reliance on Food Services and Accommodation or other heavily impacted industries. Hawaii, Nevada and Vermont rely heavily on Food Services and Accommodation and have had large jobs losses though they had not yet been as hard hit by COVID-19. Michigan, 5th in overall job loss, had made great progress in its number of cases but had been hard-hit earlier and has experienced exceptional job loss in manufacturing. New Hampshire, 9th in percent job loss, ranks 2nd in reliance on retail and the close relationship of its economy to that of hard-hit Massachusetts undoubtedly has affected it. Maine, ranked 12th in job loss, ranks high in employment in the hard-hit areas of health care and retail and its economy is also linked to that of hard-hit states. The dots for Hawaii, Nevada, Vermont, Maine, Michigan and New Hampshire are highlighted in red in the chart.

  1. Employment data are seasonally adjusted.
  2. COVID-19 cases are per-100,000 in population. Source: New York Times Covid-19 tracking project

Unemployment Rate

Map 2 shows the unemployment rate. This measure is likely to be somewhat unreliable for the coming months. It is a measure of those who are not employed as a share of those who are employed or seeking employment. How respondents respond to survey questions related to whether they are seeking employment in this unusual period will not be consistent, which will make the unemployment rate somewhat unpredictable. There are other measures of unemployment, but they are not available by state on a monthly basis.

The highest unemployment rates in May were 17.4% in Massachusetts, 16.6% in New Jersey, 15.7% in New York and 15.0% in Nevada. Clicking on a state in the map will show the February, April, May and June rates. The chart in Addendum 2 plots the unemployment rate from 2008 through May for the country, selected state, district, or territory.

  1. Employment data are seasonally adjusted.

Employment-to-Population Ratio

Chart 6 shows the Employment-to-Population Ratio (EPOP) so far in 2020. This is the percent of the population that is gainfully employed. For the country, and most states, it has dropped significantly since February. In the long run this measure is influenced by factors such as the aging of the population out of prime working years. The dramatic economic impact of COVID-19, however, currently dominates this measure. 

  1. Employment data are seasonally adjusted.

View Addendum 1: Sortable Jobs Table

The table in Addendum 1 can be sorted by percent change in employment, change in the number of jobs, or alphabetically by state. Different sectors and industry can be selected.

View Addendum 2: Unemployment Rate 2007 – April 2020

Addendum 2 shows the unemployment rate by month from January 2007 to April 2020, the most current month for which data are available. The national total or individual state, district, or territory can be selected.

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