Unemployment Rates Haven’t Recovered in Most States

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1 - That’s the number of states—just South Dakota—where the unemployment rate decreased measurably in December 2020 from one year prior, according to a recent government report.

The Balance

That’s the number of states—just South Dakota—where the unemployment rate decreased measurably in December 2020 from one year prior, according to a recent government report.

The fact that only one state saw significant improvement in its jobless rate underlines just how widespread the pandemic’s economic impact has been. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) recent report said South Dakota’s drop from 3.4% to 3.0% was “statistically significant,” it also said that Alaska saw its unemployment rate improve from 6.1% to 5.8% between December 2019 and December 2020. However, the BLS said it did not deem Alaska’s drop large enough to rule out measurement errors as the cause. 

Three other states—Nebraska, Iowa, and Mississippi—had unemployment rates that were little or unchanged in December 2020 from one year prior, the BLS reported. The remaining states all finished the year with significantly higher unemployment rates.

Despite the improvement, South Dakota and Alaska both finished the year with fewer jobs than they started with, according to BLS data. The statistically significant decrease in the unemployment rate in South Dakota is at least partially explained by people dropping out of the workforce—the state’s labor force participation rate fell from 69% in December 2019 to 67.7% in December 2020.