The lockdowns and other restrictions imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic hammered the nation’s economy, with unemployment rising to a record-high 14.7 percent in April from a historically low 3.5 percent in February, before gradually receding to 7.9 percent in September.
Of the 10 states with the lowest unemployment rates in September, nine went for President Donald Trump in 2016, the data indicates. Of the 10 states with the highest unemployment, nine were won that year by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
The contrast becomes starker when the states’ unemployment rates before the pandemic are taken into account.
Unemployment rates in red states have risen on average by less than 2.7 percentage points, compared to September 2019. In blue states, they rose nearly 5 points.
Most notable was Nebraska, where the rate ticked up to 3.5 percent from 3 percent. In South Dakota, the rate rose to 4.1 percent from 3.4 percent, and in Alaska, to 7.2 percent from 6.2 percent.
Other relative successes were Kentucky (up 1.3 points), Mississippi (up 1.5 points), Missouri (up 1.6 points), Montana (up 1.8 points), Vermont (up 1.8 points), Iowa (up 1.9 points), and North Dakota (up 2 points)—all red states, except Vermont, while Kentucky and Montana have Democratic governors.
At the other end of the spectrum, Hawaii’s unemployment rate jumped to 15.1 percent from 2.7 percent, Nevada’s grew to 12.6 percent from 3.7 percent, and California’s rose to 11 percent from 3.9 percent.
Other large increases were recorded in Rhode Island (up 7 points), Massachusetts (up 6.8 points), Illinois (up 6.5 points), New York (up 5.8 points), and Texas (up 4.8 points)—all blue states, except for Texas; Massachusetts has a Republican governor.
Republican-led states tended to impose less-severe restrictions in response to the pandemic and reopened their economies earlier.
The pace of the recovery has slowed in recent months, with some states reimposing lockdowns as the number of CCP virus cases rebounded with the change of seasons. Eight states posted worse numbers than in August: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, North Carolina, Texas, and Utah.
Meanwhile, states with the most dramatic drops in month-to-month unemployment were New Jersey (down 4.4 points), New York (down 2.8 points), and Rhode Island (down 2.4 points).
The number of workers seeking unemployment benefits last week fell by 55,000 to 787,000, an encouraging sign, since economists polled by Reuters expected 860,000 weekly filings.
A total of more than 23 million Americans were receiving some form of unemployment assistance in the week ending Oct. 3, a drop of just over 1 million from the week prior. There were 1.4 million people claiming such benefits at this time last year.
Tom Ozimek and Reuters contributed to this report.