The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits remains high by historical standards, with the latest weekly total coming in at 751,000.
While some states have seen unemployment applications recede from record highs after the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. employment picture, others have suffered stubbornly high jobless rates months into the recovery. In some states, unemployment rates shot higher than 20%.
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 17, Hawaii is still currently suffering the worst employment picture with a nation-leading insured unemployment rate of 11.3%. The Aloha state has suffered the highest insured unemployment rate in the U.S. since the week ending August 8.
The U.S. Virgin Islands, at 9.6%, leapfrogged California which came in at third on the list with an unemployment rate of 9.3%. Nevada held steady with its own insured unemployment rate of 9.2% and New Mexico rounded out the top five at 9%. All of the top regions are suffering from notably higher insured unemployment rates relative to the national average of 5.3% for the same week.
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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 18 percentage points, down to about 9% 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.
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.