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California and Hawaii lead the nation with the worst coronavirus-hit job markets

Zack Guzman
·Senior Writer
·3 min read

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits ticked higher for the first time since October, with the latest weekly total coming in at 742,000.

According to the Department of Labor’s latest report, which breaks out the insured unemployment rate (a ratio of people on unemployment benefits divided by labor force) at the state level through October 31, California and Hawaii are now tied with the worst insured unemployment rates by state at 8.3%. This marks the first time that the Aloha state hasn’t solely led the U.S. since August 8.

New Mexico remained at third on the list with an insured unemployment rate of 8%, while Nevada and Georgia rounded out the top five hardest hit states wit unemployment rates of 7.6% and 6.5%, respectively. All of the top regions are suffering from notably higher insured unemployment rates relative to the national average of 4.6% for the same week.

Compared to pre-pandemic levels, those unemployment rates are notably higher than the worst states listed in the week ended February 22. Back then, Alaska topped the nation with a similar unemployment rate at just 2.9%. As high as the unemployment rates are now in the hardest hit states, they have still marginally improved from peaks seen months prior. Nevada, for example, has seen its unemployment rate improve nearly 19 percentage points, down to 7.6% from 27%, during the week ended May 9.

The latest swath of unemployment insurance applications brings the total amount of jobless claims to more than 60 million since the pandemic began to roil the job market in March.

Looking at unemployment statistics published last month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which measures unemployment by the more traditional ratio of unemployed workers to the size of the labor force, Hawaii also notched the highest unemployment rate by that metric for the month of October at 15.1%, followed by Nevada at 12.6%. The report also showed Hawaii had been hardest hit since September 2019, suffering the largest unemployment rate increases since then, rising more than 12 percentage points.

The state only recently reopened for travelers opting to show a negative COVID-19 test. Up until last month travelers had to quarantine for 14 days after landing on the island. As Hawaii made that change, Hawaii Airlines CEO Peter Ingram told Yahoo Finance that the change is “turning a page” for Hawaii’s recovery. New Mexico, on the other hand, began a two-week statewide lockdown order Monday.

As a Yahoo Finance review of jobless claims data showed earlier, some states are recovering more quickly than others, but all are still struggling with varying economic restrictions tied to controlling the spread of the coronavirus.

Zack Guzman is the co-host of Yahoo Finance Live from 11a.m. - 1 p.m. ET, as well as a senior writer and on-air reporter covering entrepreneurship, cannabis, startups, and breaking news at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @zGuz.

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