The U.S. labor market reached 14.7% in April as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic caused employers to lay off and furlough over 23 million workers. Although the long-term impact of COVID-19 on the economy remains uncertain, the impact on unemployment rates across the country is very apparent. There is a 30- to 60-day lag time from when the most current unemployment rates are released, so unfortunately it is very difficult to consistently measure unemployment rates across all states in real-time measurement. 

The April unemployment rates by state were just released on May 22 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics; however, metropolitan area unemployment rates — indicating the city-level impact — won’t be released until early June. Site Selection Group has provided a summary of the key findings from the most recent state-level unemployment rate data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to help you navigate these challenging economic conditions.

Two-month state level unemployment rate increased by 4.1% to 24.6%

The two-month increase in unemployment by state ranges from 4.1% to 24.6%. The most notable finding is that only eight states are below a 10% unemployment rate, and there is not one state below 7.9% unemployment. To place this in greater context, the lowest unemployment rate by state during the month of February was 2.2% and the highest unemployment rate by state in February was 5.8%. The following map summarizes unemployment by state and the increase between February and April:

U.S. Unemployment Rate by State (April 2020)



Nevada unemployment rate impacted the most by COVID-19 pandemic

Nevada has the highest unemployment of all states at 28.2%. This can most likely be attributed to Nevada’s dominance in the travel, tourism, hospitality and entertainment sectors. Nevada also has the greatest increase in unemployment from February to April of almost 25%. All 10 of the highest unemployed states are at or above 15.5% unemployment. Beyond the top 10 states, the next cluster of high-ranking states are all between 14.5% to 15.5% so not much variance from the top 10 states. Listed below are the 10 states with the highest unemployment rate along with their increase from February.

10 States with Highest Unemployment Rate

Rank State Region April 2020 Unemployment Increase between February to April
1 Nevada West 28.20% 24.60%
2 Michigan Midwest 22.70% 19.10%
3 Hawaii Outside 22.30% 19.60%
4 Rhode Island Northeast 17.00% 13.60%
5 Indiana Midwest 16.90% 13.80%
6 Ohio Midwest 16.80% 12.70%
7 Illinois Midwest 16.40% 13.00%
8 New Hampshire Northeast 16.30% 13.70%
9 Vermont Northeast 15.60% 13.20%
10 California West 15.50% 11.60%

COVID-19 creates unemployment trends at the regional level

The regional breakdown of states generates interesting findings as well.  Overall the Northeast states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont) collectively had the most states with the highest unemployment rates. Seven of the 20 highest unemployed states are in the Northeast. Additionally, those seven Northeast states also had a change in unemployment of over 10% over the last two months. This is the highest of any other region. 

The Midwest and Southeast states were both very similar with their overall rankings. The Midwest had four states within the top 10 (in highest order: Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois) and no additional states within the top 20. The Southeast did not have any states within the top 10, but four states within the top 20 (in highest order: Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana). 

The Southwest states (Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas) did not have any states within the top 20 for highest unemployment. It is the only region that did not have a state break the top 20. Oklahoma is the only state in that region with a two-month change since February of over 10%. The other 3 states had changes of 8% to 9.3%.   

The West region (California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming) had two states in the top 10 (Nevada and California) and then Washington is the only other state breaking the top 20. 

The Mid-Atlantic, comprised of Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia and Washington D.C. only had West Virginia within the top 20 at 15.2%. Delaware and West Virginia both had over 10% change since February.

The following tables provide a summary of state unemployment conditions as well as regional and national rankings:

Mid-Atlantic Region

State National Rank Regional Rank April Unemployment Increase between February to April
West Virginia 15 1 15.2% 10.3%
Delaware 21 2 14.3% 10.4%
D.C. 38 3 11.1% 6.0%
Maryland 44 4 9.9% 6.6%

Midwest Region

State National Rank Regional Rank April Unemployment Increase between February to April
Michigan 2 1 22.7% 19.1%
Indiana 5 2 16.9% 13.8%
Ohio 6 3 16.8% 12.7%
Illinois 7 4 16.4% 13.0%
Wisconsin 23 5 14.1% 10.6%
Kansas 37 6 11.2% 8.1%
Iowa 41 7 10.2% 7.4%
South Dakota 42 8 10.2% 6.9%
Missouri 46 9 9.7% 6.2%
North Dakota 48 10 8.5% 6.3%
Nebraska 49 11 8.3% 5.4%
Minnesota 50 12 8.1% 5.0%

Northeast Region

State National Rank Regional Rank April Unemployment Increase between February to April
Rhode Island 4 1 17.00% 13.60%
New Hampshire 8 2 16.30% 13.70%
Vermont 9 3 15.60% 13.20%
New Jersey 14 4 15.30% 11.50%
Massachusetts 16 5 15.10% 12.30%
Pennsylvania 17 6 15.10% 10.40%
New York 19 7 14.50% 10.80%
Maine 40 8 10.60% 7.40%
Connecticut 51 9 7.90% 4.10%

Southeast Region

State National Rank Regional Rank April Unemployment Increase between February to April
Kentucky 12 1 15.40% 11.20%
Mississippi 13 2 15.40% 10.00%
Tennessee 18 3 14.70% 11.30%
Louisiana 20 4 14.50% 9.30%
Alabama 25 5 12.90% 10.20%
Florida 26 6 12.90% 10.10%
North Carolina 30 7 12.20% 8.60%
South Carolina 31 8 12.10% 9.60%
Georgia 32 9 11.90% 8.80%
Virginia 39 10 10.60% 8.00%
Arkansas 43 11 10.20% 6.70%

Southwest Region

State National Rank Regional Rank April Unemployment Increase between February to April
Oklahoma 24 1 13.70% 10.50%
Texas 28 2 12.80% 9.30%
Arizona 29 3 12.60% 8.10%
New Mexico 36 4 11.30% 6.50%

West Region

State National Rank Regional Rank April Unemployment Increase between February to April
Nevada 1 1 28.20% 24.60%
California 10 2 15.50% 11.60%
Washington 11 3 15.40% 11.60%
Oregon 22 4 14.20% 10.90%
Idaho 33 5 11.50% 8.80%
Colorado 34 6 11.30% 8.80%
Montana 35 7 11.30% 7.80%
Utah 45 8 9.70% 7.20%
Wyoming 47 9 9.20% 5.50%

Non-Continental States

State National Rank Regional Rank April Unemployment Increase between February to April
Hawaii 3 1 22.30% 19.60%
Alaska 27 2 12.90% 7.10%

Conclusions

There is no doubt the country is experiencing unprecedented unemployment rates as a direct result of COVID-19. As a nation, the current unemployment rate is 14.7%, although many predict it is closer to 20% or even higher. Although this is not as high as the national unemployment of over 25% during the Great Depression, current unemployment conditions are still very daunting and predicted to rise. Site Selection Group will continue to monitor the latest unemployment rates by state as well as by metro area to identify any changes or trends to help you make more informed location decisions. 

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