WASHINGTON — Employers added jobs in 46 states last month, evidence that the U.S. economy’s surprise hiring gain in May was spread broadly across the country — in both states that began reopening their economies early and those that did so only later.
Unemployment rates fell in 38 states, rose in three and were largely unchanged in nine, the Labor Department said today. The disparities ranged from Nevada, with the highest rate (25.3%), Hawaii (22.6%) and Michigan (21.2%) to Nebraska (5.2%, the lowest) and Utah (8.5%). The overall U.S. unemployment rate in May was a still-high 13.3%, a decline from 14.7% in April.
All told, the figures illustrate the unusually broad nature of the recession, with all states enduring unemployment rates that soared in April as the coronavirus forced business closures and then generally fell but remained painfully high in May. During the 2008-2009 Great Recession, by contrast, some Midwestern and Plains states such as Iowa and North Dakota managed to avoid high unemployment. Yet in May, Iowa’s unemployment rate was a high 10% and North Dakota’s 9.1%.
At the same time, the viral outbreak has sharpened disparities among the states, with Nevada, with its hard-hit tourism industry, and Michigan, heavily affected by auto job cuts, reporting jobless rates more than double the rates in states like Utah and Wyoming. The gap between the highest and lowest states is slightly worse than during the 2008-2009 downturn.
The virus and the accompanying shutdowns have devastated most states’ economies. Last month, four states recorded their highest unemployment rates on records dating to 1976: Delaware (15.8%), Florida (14.5%), Massachusetts (16.3%), and Minnesota (9.9%).
Nationwide, employers added 2.5 million jobs in April, an unexpected gain that suggested that the job market bottomed out in April and is gradually recovering. Still, the number of people applying for unemployment aid has remained stubbornly high in the past several weeks, a sign that many businesses are still shedding jobs and clouding the outlook for jobs.