By Dan Burns
(Reuters) – Unemployment rates rose and total employment fell in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia in April as efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses to close across the country, the Labor Department said on Friday.
The department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said 43 states set record-high rates of unemployment last month, with the highest being in Nevada, the state with the greatest reliance on the hard-hit food services and hospitality industry. Nevada’s jobless rate surged by 21.3 percentage points from March to 28.2%, which was nearly double the national rate of 14.7% in April.
The monthly breakdown of state-level nonfarm employment and jobless rates, published two weeks after the national payrolls report, painted a picture of widespread but nonetheless uneven devastation caused by the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory illness triggered by the novel coronavirus.
The May 8 payrolls report showed a record 20.5 million jobs were lost in April, the steepest plunge in U.S. employment since the Great Depression.
Friday’s report indicated more than a quarter of those job losses were concentrated in three of the largest U.S. states: California, which shed 2.3 million jobs; New York, which has seen the largest number of U.S. COVID-19 cases and deaths and lost 1.8 million positions; and Texas, which has suffered a double blow from plunging oil prices and lost 1.3 million jobs.
In Nevada, home to the global gambling mecca of Las Vegas, half of the nearly 245,000 jobs lost in April were in the leisure and hospitality sector. That industry has suffered the greatest losses nationally from the reductions in travel and widespread closures of dine-in restaurants during a month when stay-at-home orders were deployed broadly.
The leisure and hospitality sector losses also took a major toll on Hawaii, which was one of only three states with an unemployment rate above 20% – Nevada and Michigan were the other two. The Pacific island state lost more than 55% of leisure and hospitality jobs last month, accounting for 57% of all jobs lost in that period.
In Michigan, more than one of every five jobs was eliminated, at least temporarily. The leisure and hospitality sector led the declines there, too, but a quarter of the state’s losses came in the manufacturing and construction sectors.
Layoffs have persisted in May even as all 50 states have reopened businesses to one degree or another. On Thursday, the BLS reported more than 2.4 million people filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week and those continuing to receive jobless relief payments topped 25 million in the week ended May 9.
That data suggests the worst may not be over for the hardest-hit states such as Nevada, Hawaii and Michigan. The number of continued claims rose in all three, including a 31% week-over-week increase in Hawaii.
Economists believe that progress in driving down infection rates will be an important factor behind the success of state re-opening efforts.
On that front, at least, both Hawaii and Nevada appear to be leaders, and they are among just eight states to have shown three straight weeks of declines in the 7-day average of new cases. Michigan is among 20 states that have seen declines in two of the past three weeks.
(Reporting by Dan Burns; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Andrea Ricci and Paul Simao)