Red states, along with Democrat-controlled Vermont, topped the charts in lowest unemployment rates in April, while blue states recorded the highest jobless rates, according to the Commerce Department.
In a May 21 statement, the Commerce Department announced that the top five states with the highest unemployment rates in April were Hawaii at 8.5 percent, followed by California at 8.3 percent, New Mexico and New York both at 8.2 percent, and Connecticut at 8.1 percent. All five states have Democrat trifectas, meaning their governorships and state houses and senates are Democrat-controlled.
At the same time, the top four states with the lowest jobless rates in April—Nebraska, New Hampshire, South Dakota, and Utah, with 2.8 percent each—all have Republican trifectas, meaning Republicans hold the governorship, a majority in the state Senate, and a majority in the state House. Vermont, with a Democrat-controlled state House and Senate and a Republican governor, came in fifth, with an unemployment rate of 2.9 percent.
Overall, 31 states had unemployment rates lower than the U.S. national average of 6.1 percent, with 26 of them red. Of the 19 states and the District of Columbia with jobless rates higher than the national average, 14 are blue.
Meanwhile, the three largest unemployment rate decreases year-over-year from April 2020 to April 2021 occurred in blue states: Nevada, down 21.5 percentage points; Michigan, down 18.7 percentage points; and Hawaii, down 13.4 percentage points, with another 10 states experiencing declines of 10 percentage points or more.
The Commerce Department’s state unemployment report came as Federal Reserve officials and new Dallas Federal Reserve data have begun lowering expectations for May jobs growth in the United States as business hiring plans continue to outrun the supply of people able or willing to work.
Dallas Federal Reserve President Robert Kaplan said in a May 21 statement that hiring difficulties have continued through May and will likely lead to another weak jobs report following the lower-than-expected 266,000 positions added in April. The next jobs report is due for release on June 4 by the Labor Department.
A survey published by the Dallas Fed on May 21 also pointed to weakening job growth.
This trend has been attributed to a number of factors, including ongoing unemployment benefit payments and a lack of child care.
“These structural issues, which we saw in the report for April … all those tensions are not going to go away” immediately, Kaplan said at a Dallas Fed conference on technology. “We think you are going to see another odd or unusual report. … Businesses are telling us they got plenty of demand, but they cannot find workers either skilled or unskilled.”
Fed officials had hoped to see a “string” of months in which a million or more new jobs were added to U.S. payrolls, helping the country quickly claw back the 8.2 million positions still missing from before the pandemic.
Business groups and Republican leaders have blamed generous unemployment benefits—expanded under President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan—for discouraging people from taking jobs.
In response to business hiring woes, Republican governors in at least 22 states have moved to drop the federal unemployment benefit boost.
Reuters contributed to this report.