The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week with the latest weekly total of initial claims coming in at 712,000.
While some states have seen unemployment applications recede from record highs after the coronavirus pandemic first roiled America’s employment picture, others have suffered stubbornly high job losses months into the recovery.
According to the 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 November 14, California topped Hawaii with the nation’s worst insured unemployment rate at 7.3% for the first time since August. Hawaii’s rate of 7.1% was second-worst for the second week in a row since yielding the top spot last week.
Nevada jumped up to third with an insured unemployment rate of 6.7%, while Alaska and Massachusetts rounded out the five worst states at 6.4% and 6%, respectively. Broken out separately, the U.S. Virgin Islands fared worse than any state at 7.9%. All of the top-listed regions are suffering from notably higher insured unemployment rates relative to the national average of 4.2% for the same week.
Compared to pre-pandemic levels, those unemployment rates are still higher than the worst states listed in the week ended February 22. 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 marginally improved from peaks seen months prior. Nevada, for example, has seen its unemployment rate improve 20 percentage points, down to under 7% from 27% during the week ended May 9.
Looking at unemployment statistics published last month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which measures unemployment by the more traditional ratio of unemployed workers to the size of the labor force, Hawaii also notched the highest unemployment rate by that metric for the month of October at 15.1%, followed by Nevada at 12.6%. The report also showed Hawaii had been hardest hit since September 2019, suffering the largest unemployment rate increases since then, rising more than 12 percentage points.
The Aloha state only recently reopened for travelers opting to show a negative COVID-19 test. Up until October, travelers had to quarantine for 14 days after landing on the island. As Hawaii made that change, Hawaii Airlines CEO Peter Ingram told Yahoo Finance that the change marked a “turning a page” for Hawaii’s recovery.
California has been struggling with a renewed spike in coronavirus cases. The state reported new daily highs for confirmed cases this week, prompting Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to institute a new stay-at-home order.
Zack Guzman is the co-host of the 11AM - 1PM hours on Yahoo Finance Live as well as a senior writer and on-air reporter covering entrepreneurship, cannabis, startups, and breaking news at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @zGuz.