Unemployment Hit Record Highs in 43 States in April, Labor Department Says

May 22, 2020 Updated: May 22, 2020

The Labor Department said Friday that, as efforts to contain the pandemic forced businesses to close across the United States, 43 states set record-high levels of unemployment last month.

Unemployment rates rose and total employment fell in all 50 states and Washington in April, the department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said in a release (pdf). The 43 states that set new unemployment rate records can be found in Table A of the linked document.

Hardest hit was Nevada, the state with the greatest reliance on the embattled food services and hospitality industry. The jobless rate in Nevada surged 21.3 percentage points to 28.2 percent, nearly twice April’s national unemployment rate.

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People who lost their jobs wait in line to file for unemployment at an Arkansas Workforce Center in Fayetteville, Ark., on April 6, 2020. (Nick Oxford/Reuters)

The states with the second and third highest jobless rates in April were Michigan, which hit 22.7 percent after seeing a monthly surge of 18.4 percentage points, and Hawaii, where the unemployment rate grew by 19.9 percentage points to 22.3 percent.

The national unemployment rate rose by 10.3 percentage points over the month of April to 14.7 percent.

The smallest over-the-month jobless rate increases took place in Nebraska (+4.3 percentage points) and Connecticut (+4.5 percentage points.)

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Unionized hospitality workers wait in line in a basement garage to apply for unemployment benefits at the Hospitality Training Academy in Los Angeles, Calif., on March 13, 2020. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo)

All 50 states and Washington saw nonfarm payroll employment numbers plunge in April. The largest job drops occurred in California (-2,344,700), New York (-1,827,300), and Texas (-1,298,900).

U.S. stock indexes moved in a flat-to-low range on Friday as markets have struggled to gauge the pace of economic recovery from the outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

As of writing, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.43 percent on the day while the S&P 500 was losing 0.24 percent at 2,942 points.

Still, investor optimism over the U.S. economy gradually emerging from the lockdowns have put the major indexes on course for weekly gains, with the S&P 500 set to add more than 2 percent.

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Background chart shows the benchmark S&P500 price action between Nov. 2019 and May 2020, and the inlaid chart shows the same index on May 22, 2020. (Tradingview)

That optimism was echoed by both President Donald Trump and his top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, who said Wednesday that economic output in the third quarter could surge by 21.5 percent, which Kudlow said would make it “the biggest growth quarter in American history.”

Kudlow, speaking at a White House meeting Wednesday with the governors of Arkansas and Kansas, based his comments on revised economic estimates by the Congressional Budget Office, which predicted a second-quarter annualized contraction of 37.7 percent that the presidential adviser called a “predictably rough pandemic contraction.”

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Director of the Economic Council Larry Kudlow speaks during the Wall Street Journal CEO Council in Washington on Dec. 10, 2019. (Al Drago/Reuters)

As states have imposed restrictions on work and travel, the second quarter of 2020 has been widely predicted to be the worst in American history, with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell recently estimating gross domestic product (GDP) in Q2 would fall by between 30 and 40 percent.

But as states begin to lift lockdowns, there are signs of green shoots.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, told Trump at the meeting that his state is “back to work” and that the state’s sales tax revenue will likely bounce back faster than expected.

Trump, who has championed reopening of the country to speed an economic revival said Wednesday, “We’re going to open up. I call it ‘transition to greatness.'”

“I think you’re going to have a very good fourth quarter,” Trump added, calling the third quarter “a great transition period.”

“States are opening up, some rapidly, safely,” the president said.

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