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These states are suffering the worst sustained unemployment

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits jumped beyond expectations last week with the latest weekly total of initial claims coming in at 965,000.

While some states have seen unemployment applications recede from record highs after the coronavirus pandemic first roiled America’s employment picture, others have suffered stubbornly high job losses months into the recovery.

According to the U.S. 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 Dec. 12, Alaska led all states with a rate of 6.5%. The U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands posted a nationwide high of 7.5% and 6.8%, respectively. Nevada and New Mexico followed with an insured unemployment rate at 6.2%.

All of the top-listed regions are suffering higher insured unemployment rates relative to the national average of 3.6% for the same week.

Compared to pre-pandemic levels, those unemployment rates are still higher than the worst states listed during the week ended Feb. 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 drastically improved from peaks seen months prior. Nevada, for example, has seen its unemployment rate improve 21 percentage points, down to about 6% from 27% during the week ended May 9.

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, New Jersey notched the highest unemployment rate by that metric for the month of November at 10.2%. Hawaii and Nevada both followed at 10.1%. The report also showed Hawaii had suffered the largest increase in unemployment since November 2019, rising more than 7.5 percentage points.

Zack Guzman is the co-host of the 11AM - 1PM hours on Yahoo Finance Live 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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