Published September 25, 2020
The national economic picture looks bleak, with unemployment claims still at record highs and the unemployment rate still higher than 8 percent. State-level data, however, paints a much rosier picture for President Trump.
That data shows the national figures are largely driven by bad news from a handful of large states. The most recent data, from the August employment survey, shows that 34 states have an unemployment rate below the national 8.4 percent average. In some cases, the state rate is well below that still-high number. Five states have unemployment rates below 5 percent, a level that would have been considered full unemployment before the turbocharged labor market of recent years. In many parts of the country, people are getting back to work relatively quickly.
National unemployment is being driven higher by poor labor markets in a few large states. California, for example, still has an 11.4 percent unemployment rate, and New York stood at 12.5 percent. In all, 10 states — California, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island — had unemployment rates higher than 10 percent. Those states are home to 107 million Americans, roughly 32 percent of the nation’s population. If those economies looked more like the rest of the country’s, the national economic news would be much rosier.
Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.