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After states issued stay-at-home orders in March, mass layoffs ensued at a pace never seen before in this nation. Since that time, 44 states have set record-high unemployment rates, dating back to 1976 when the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) started making regional calculations.
But things are starting to swing back. As states ease those lockdowns, hiring is restarting, and, since May, the unemployment rate is falling in 35 states, according to data released Friday by the BLS. The rate was flat in three states, and rose slightly in 12 more.
This calculus helps explain why the national unemployment rate has fallen from 14.7% in April to 13.3% in May, pointing to an economy moving from contraction to modest recovery.
The damage to U.S. tourism is so great that Nevada still leads the entire nation with a 25.3% unemployment rate in May. That, however, is down from Nevada’s 28.2% jobless rate in April—a figure that is greater than the 25.6% peak U.S. jobless rate during the Great Depression.
The second highest rate is tourist-dependent Hawaii, at 22.6%. It was followed by Michigan (21.2%), Rhode Island (16.3%), Massachusetts (16.3%), and California (16.3%).
Despite being at the epicenter of the worst coronavirus outbreaks, New York (14.5%) and New Jersey (15.2%) had unemployment rates closer to the national rate. Both states are reopening at a slower pace, which explains why the New York rate was unchanged in May, and only fell 0.1% in New Jersey.
At 5.2%, Nebraska had the lowest jobless rate in May, down from 8.3% in April.
But as regional economies improve, cases of the deadly virus are increasing throughout the South and West. New cases of COVID-19 are climbing quickly in Florida and Texas—by more than 1,000 new cases per day from the tallies registered two weeks prior.