The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits last week increased slightly, with the latest weekly total of initial claims coming in at 745,000.
While some states have seen unemployment applications recede from record highs after the coronavirus pandemic first roiled America’s employment picture last spring, 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 Feb. 13, Pennsylvania led all states with a rate of 6.4%. Alaska followed at 5.7%, while Nevada and Rhode Island rounded out the top four states with insured unemployment rates at 5.4% and 5.1%, respectively.
All of the top-listed states are suffering higher insured unemployment rates relative to the national average of 3.1% for the same week.
As Yahoo Finance highlighted earlier in February, Hawaii has mounted an incredible employment recovery since it instituted COVID-19 testing and travel restrictions last October. The state once led the nation with an insured unemployment rate higher than 20%, but has since seen that drop to below 5%.
Generally, even the worst states are starting to approach their pre-pandemic levels. 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 5% from 27%, during the week ended May 9.
Looking at unemployment statistics published in January by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which measures unemployment by the more traditional ratio of unemployed workers to the size of the labor force, Hawaii and Nevada notched the highest unemployment rate by that metric for the month of December at 9.3% and 9.2%, respectively. The BLS data lags the updates on the jobless claims front from the Department of Labor and will likely show a widening gap between Hawaii and Nevada in next month’s report.
Zack Guzman is an anchor for Yahoo Finance Live as well as a senior writer covering entrepreneurship, cannabis, startups, and breaking news at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @zGuz.
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