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Which States Lost the Most Jobs Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic

Before the coronavirus pandemic, it was difficult to imagine a world where restaurants, bars, offices, schools, retail shops and so many more gathering places would be shuttered – at least temporarily. As a result of these closures, many Americans are out of work, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its most recent unemployment data showing that 13.3% of U.S. residents are unemployed and seeking work as of May 2020.

However, unemployment data alone doesn’t tell the whole story. That figure only shows how many people are out of work and actively looking for a job. To determine the job losses caused by the COVID-19 crisis, LendingTree researchers compared the total nonfarm workers by state in April 2019 and April 2020. We then determined which states lost the highest proportion of jobs based on a decrease in the number of workers to see where the pandemic is hitting workers the hardest.

Key findings

  • Michigan saw the largest proportional job loss at 23% between April 2019 and April 2020. The state lost about 1 million workers in total. If we multiplied all those jobs by the average annual earnings in Michigan, they are equivalent to $51.6 billion in lost annual earnings.
  • Vermont ranks second, with a 21.5% decrease in jobs over the year. During this time period, the state reported 68,100 jobs that were lost.
  • New York has 1.9 million less workers on payroll in April 2020 than in April 2019. The data shows that 19.4% of all jobs have been lost. If we assumed all those jobs paid the average annual earnings for workers in New York, that is a loss of nearly $122 billion.
  • Nevada ranks No. 7, with an 18% decline in jobs. According to local area unemployment statistics from BLS, Nevada currently has the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 28.2%. The northeast region has seen the biggest impact by far. Nine northeastern states cracked the top 12.
  • California lost the highest amount of workers at 2.3 million. However, with its high population, the state as a whole saw a smaller proportional impact: California lost 13.4% of jobs year over year.
  • No state saw jobs grow over this period and of all the states, Utah had the lowest rate of job losses. It lost about 7% of its workforce, or about 109,100 jobs.
  • South Dakota lost 7.6% of its jobs over the time period analyzed, equal to $1.4 billion in lost earnings. Nearby North Dakota did worse, losing 9.7% of its jobs with a 50% larger loss in earnings.
  • The District of Columbia also fared relatively well, with reported job losses at 7.8%. Despite the relatively low number of jobs lost (62,100) in the capital, the high average earnings ($89,800) for workers means that the annualized value of jobs lost ($5.6 billion) is significant for its rank.
  • Across the 50 states and the District of Columbia, the average percentage of jobs lost was 13%.

States with the highest relative job losses due to the coronavirus pandemic

While Americans are feeling the effects of the coronavirus pandemic across the U.S., workers in some states are affected at a higher rate than those in other states. In the state with the highest job losses, Michigan (23%), the workforce shrunk at more than three times the rate as the last state on our list, Utah (7%). Many of the jobs in Michigan are fueled by the automobile industry, BLS data shows. The steep drop-off in spending on cars may have significantly affected jobs in the state.

Coming in a close second is Vermont, followed by a handful of states located in the Northeast, rounding out the top five. One of the states that was struck hardest by the coronavirus pandemic is also feeling some of the most economic impact. New York lost the second-most jobs despite only being the fourth-most populous state, according to 2019 data estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. New York took the No. 3 spot in our rankings. Our study shows job losses of 1.9 million with a lost earning value of $122 billion.

Hawaii (No. 6) and Nevada (No. 7) have economies that are heavily driven by the tourism industry. Travel to Hawaii has been particularly impacted by the pandemic. Compared to April 2019, it was down 99.5% in April 2020, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s Tourism Research Division. Nevada’s state economy is also fueled by the tourism industry in destinations like Las Vegas. Tourism makes up 14.1% of the state’s economy, accounting for 297,000 jobs in 2018, according to the Nevada Division of Tourism.

States that suffered the highest proportion of job losses
1 Michigan -23.0%
2 Vermont -21.5%
3 New York -19.4%
4 New Jersey -18.7%
5 Rhode Island -18.6%
6 Hawaii -18.5%
7 Nevada -18.0%
8 Massachusetts -17.3%
9 Pennsylvania -17.2%
10 Connecticut -16.4%
Source: LendingTree

Some populous states lost a lot of jobs, but with a smaller impact

It might come as a surprise that some of the most populous states in America aren’t at the top of this list. However, the dense population of certain states actually gives their economies a cushion when it comes to job losses. For example, California lost the most workers compared with the same period last year, at 2.3 million, equal to lost annualized earnings of $142 billion. Thanks to its high population, though, California actually ranked toward the middle of the pack at No. 21 with 13.4% less jobs in April 2020 compared with the prior year.

Texas lost 1.1 million jobs overall, the third-most in our study. The state also ranked third for lost earnings at $56 billion. However, the Lone Star State saw some of the smallest proportional impacts since it has a high population, with 8.7% less jobs from April of last year to this April.

States where workers were least impacted by the coronavirus pandemic

Even at the bottom of our list, there are no states that got anywhere near breaking even with jobs compared with last April. However, the states at the bottom of the list have seen a smaller proportion of job losses compared with most other states on our list. The bottom 10 states with job losses all saw their workforce decrease by 9% or less, which isn’t so bad when compared with the most-affected states, where their workforces decreased by nearly 20% or more.

There are no traceable regional trends to suggest that certain states made the right decisions or had the right conditions to mitigate job losses during the coronavirus pandemic. Check out the states with workforces that were impacted the least:

States that suffered the lowest proportion of job losses
51 Utah -7.00%
50 South Dakota -7.60%
49 District of Columbia -7.80%
48 Nebraska -7.90%
47 Arizona -8.20%
46 Arkansas -8.40%
45 Texas -8.70%
44 Oklahoma -8.70%
43 Wyoming -9.00%
42 Virginia -9.00%
Source: LendingTree

Other small states saw small job losses

Some of the states that lost the least amount of jobs between April 2019 and April 2020 are also some of the least populous states. Wyoming lost the least workers (26,000), and the state has a pretty small population: just under 579,000, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. South Dakota, another sparsely populated state, follows closely behind with 33,500 jobs lost compared with the same period last year.

North Dakota saw a slightly higher proportional impact than the other two states at 9.7% of jobs lost, but that still translates to the third-least amount of lost jobs: 42,800. North Dakota’s population comes in at just about 762,000.

The coronavirus pandemic has left millions of Americans unemployed, and many are unsure of how to make ends meet. Visit www.lendingtree.com/coronavirus for helpful resources on how to manage your finances during this time.

Methodology

In order to rank the states with the largest job losses, we compared the number of employees on nonfarm payroll in April 2019 to the same figure in April 2020. We ranked the states by percentage change. Data comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 

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