COVID-19 Employment Study

The Cost of American Job Recovery

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COVID-19 has led to stunning economic disruption. As infection hotspots pop up around the country, states have grappled with excruciating choices between protecting public health and bolstering the economy. Optimizing for both has proven difficult, if not impossible.

Early and stringent state and local restrictions led to higher rates of unemployment in the months following lockdowns. Reopening businesses and recovering jobs depend on more than federal and local policies. Researchers at the Harvard Business School studied factors in reopening, from features of the business such as whether it involves physical proximity to others or serves older customers to external factors such as local COVID-19 case rates and prevalent political preference. They found one of the most important factors was business owner expectations of customer demand.

In the trade-off between public health and economic recovery, public policy and public confidence play important roles.

The Cost of Job Recovery

To understand more about the balance of economic recovery and public health, MoneyGeek analyzed the rate of case growth and deaths versus the rate of jobs recovered to better understand the cost of recovered jobs. MoneyGeek also analyzed the results of the last four presidential elections to determine if a state's political leaning showcased any meaningful differences in COVID-19 cases and deaths compared to job recovery. States were defined by color based on the results of the past four presidential elections. States where the Republican or Democratic candidate won in at least three of the four elections are defined as red or blue, respectively. For states where there was a 2-2 tie, the current governor's party affiliation was used to classify the state as either red or blue.

In terms of job recovery, red states recovered 35% more jobs than blue states — 65% compared to 48%. However, red-state recovery rates came at a higher price, with 99% more COVID-19 cases and 78% more deaths per recovered job than blue states.

On a more detailed level, MoneyGeek reviewed each state's cost of recovery and recovery rates. The following data shows the analysis for each state as well as the state's political affiliation.

Political Party, Jobs Recovered and Deaths per Jobs by State
State
Political Party Voting History
Cases per 100 Jobs Recovered
Deaths per 10,000 Jobs
Percentage of Jobs Recovered

Alabama

Red

55

88

84%

Alaska

Red

23

14

83%

Arizona

Red

152

369

32%

Arkansas

Red

81

155

53%

California

Blue

55

89

34%

Colorado

Blue

19

37

53%

Connecticut

Blue

9

21

51%

Delaware

Blue

20

32

86%

District Of Columbia

Blue

87

144

14%

Florida

Red

50

96

59%

Georgia

Red

77

154

45%

Hawaii

Blue

10

13

46%

Idaho

Red

34

42

101%

Illinois

Blue

31

67

56%

Indiana

Red

16

33

78%

Iowa

Red

795

1,099

3%

Kansas

Red

59

65

52%

Kentucky

Red

34

55

51%

Louisiana

Red

42

95

80%

Maine

Blue

5

9

91%

Maryland

Blue

35

66

66%

Massachusetts

Blue

16

90

40%

Michigan

Blue

6

14

79%

Minnesota

Blue

41

51

56%

Mississippi

Red

57

167

70%

Missouri

Red

57

76

51%

Montana

Red

14

28

94%

Nebraska

Red

91

97

76%

Nevada

Blue

22

38

58%

New Hampshire

Blue

5

21

65%

New Jersey

Blue

20

97

53%

New Mexico

Blue

0%

New York

Blue

19

33

43%

North Carolina

Red

41

67

46%

North Dakota

Red

68

71

75%

Ohio

Red

18

45

68%

Oklahoma

Red

27

32

78%

Oregon

Blue

20

32

52%

Pennsylvania

Blue

32

110

33%

Rhode Island

Blue

28

111

43%

South Carolina

Red

61

152

77%

South Dakota

Red

45

60

81%

Tennessee

Red

41

55

73%

Texas

Red

29

66

82%

Utah

Red

37

27

81%

Vermont

Blue

3

2

57%

Virginia

Blue

46

86

45%

Washington

Blue

19

32

63%

West Virginia

Red

18

47

47%

Wisconsin

Blue

28

29

73%

Wyoming

Red

28

32

75%

States With the Most Jobs Recovered

In July 2020, Michigan had recovered 72% of jobs lost since February, or 932,000 jobs. Nearly 31 states had recovered at least 50% of jobs lost, including Nevada, Michigan and Indiana, which were among states with the most losses.

Economists project that the U.S. will likely have prolonged elevated unemployment, even if all furloughed workers were recalled to work.

States That Have Recovered the Most Jobs To Date

State
Recovered Jobs as % of Feb Jobs
Jobs Recovered (Low to Nov)
% of Lost Jobs Recovered
Lost Jobs (Feb to Low)

Nevada

24.3%

367,696

71%

-516,607

Michigan

23.6%

1,126,046

87%

-1,296,945

Hawaii

17.5%

114,187

66%

-172,851

New Hampshire

17.2%

130,089

79%

-165,579

Tennessee

16.8%

541,398

111%

-489,242

Mississippi

16.5%

197,764

103%

-191,910

Indiana

15.0%

490,870

81%

-606,597

Rhode Island

14.2%

75,909

71%

-106,383

Oklahoma

14.0%

249,702

94%

-265,454

Louisiana

13.7%

275,787

77%

-357,522

Massachusetts

13.6%

503,092

60%

-845,212

Texas

13.2%

1,815,810

72%

-2,515,686

Florida

13.0%

1,327,931

66%

-2,016,533

Alabama

12.7%

275,339

105%

-261,000

Delaware

12.6%

58,841

79%

-74,120

Ohio

12.5%

696,295

79%

-884,800

Georgia

12.0%

599,560

83%

-719,949

Wisconsin

11.9%

354,787

100%

-353,211

North Carolina

11.5%

567,125

68%

-836,057

Alaska

11.4%

36,360

119%

-30,622

Illinois

10.9%

667,912

64%

-1,043,253

Montana

10.6%

54,193

96%

-56,300

California

10.5%

1,963,298

61%

-3,212,183

Oregon

10.2%

206,912

89%

-232,095

Utah

10.2%

162,628

101%

-160,796

Idaho

9.7%

83,932

96%

-87,222

West Virginia

9.2%

70,364

64%

-109,979

Kansas

8.9%

129,363

101%

-127,703

Maine

8.9%

58,730

77%

-76,649

Colorado

8.8%

272,406

64%

-426,548

Kentucky

8.7%

172,799

66%

-260,631

Pennsylvania

8.5%

526,976

64%

-822,094

New Mexico

7.9%

72,454

60%

-121,451

Washington

7.7%

295,187

59%

-499,211

New Jersey

7.4%

326,991

51%

-646,380

New York

7.4%

680,664

45%

-1,515,670

Connecticut

7.3%

132,961

60%

-223,180

Arizona

7.2%

251,910

62%

-404,294

Vermont

7.2%

23,555

59%

-39,827

South Dakota

6.9%

30,803

99%

-31,218

South Carolina

5.8%

133,814

55%

-242,691

Arkansas

5.6%

73,595

54%

-135,335

Missouri

5.4%

160,533

62%

-257,116

Virginia

5.2%

225,062

45%

-501,778

Wyoming

4.9%

13,688

87%

-15,696

Minnesota

4.7%

142,015

65%

-217,756

Maryland

4.7%

147,709

40%

-369,635

District of Columbia

3.6%

14,363

33%

-43,607

Nebraska

3.6%

36,074

84%

-42,915

North Dakota

3.4%

13,131

60%

-21,868

Iowa

2.9%

48,889

31%

-160,058

States With the Most Jobs Lost

Initial unemployment claims spiked at nearly seven million early on. Despite steady declines since the peak, new and continuing claims continue to dwarf pre-pandemic levels.

The federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) helped increase businesses’ chances of survival.

States with the most job losses included those with strict lockdowns and the greatest reliance on the hardest-hit industries such as food and accommodation and arts, entertainment and recreation. For every 100 jobs lost in these sectors, well over 100 more jobs will be lost due to ripple effects across industries.

Despite resources that soften the economic blow, consumers in hard-hit states and industries may need to take stock of their finances and develop new strategies.

States From Most To Least Jobs Lost To Date

State
% Jobs Lost (Feb to Nov)
Jobs Lost (Feb to Nov)
Nov Jobs
Feb Jobs

Nevada

-9.8%

-148,911

1,364,542

1,513,453

Massachusetts

-9.3%

-342,120

3,347,141

3,689,261

New York

-9.1%

-835,006

8,355,893

9,190,899

Hawaii

-9.0%

-58,664

592,682

651,346

District of Columbia

-7.4%

-29,244

368,425

397,669

New Jersey

-7.3%

-319,389

4,071,199

4,390,588

Maryland

-7.0%

-221,926

2,934,978

3,156,904

Florida

-6.8%

-688,602

9,495,752

10,184,354

California

-6.7%

-1,248,885

17,437,239

18,686,124

Iowa

-6.6%

-111,169

1,568,587

1,679,756

Virginia

-6.4%

-276,716

4,072,742

4,349,458

Illinois

-6.1%

-375,341

5,737,441

6,112,782

Rhode Island

-5.7%

-30,474

505,758

536,232

North Carolina

-5.5%

-268,932

4,665,264

4,934,196

New Mexico

-5.4%

-48,997

864,457

913,454

Washington

-5.4%

-204,024

3,609,416

3,813,440

West Virginia

-5.2%

-39,615

723,458

763,073

Texas

-5.1%

-699,876

13,075,334

13,775,210

Colorado

-5.0%

-154,142

2,942,210

3,096,352

Vermont

-4.9%

-16,272

312,950

329,222

Connecticut

-4.9%

-90,219

1,742,962

1,833,181

Pennsylvania

-4.7%

-295,118

5,929,793

6,224,911

Arkansas

-4.7%

-61,740

1,247,932

1,309,672

New Hampshire

-4.7%

-35,490

720,974

756,464

South Carolina

-4.7%

-108,877

2,215,067

2,323,944

Kentucky

-4.4%

-87,832

1,893,480

1,981,312

Arizona

-4.4%

-152,384

3,322,682

3,475,066

Louisiana

-4.1%

-81,735

1,925,128

2,006,863

Michigan

-3.6%

-170,899

4,602,708

4,773,607

Indiana

-3.5%

-115,727

3,163,343

3,279,070

Ohio

-3.4%

-188,505

5,371,626

5,560,131

Delaware

-3.3%

-15,279

453,346

468,625

Missouri

-3.2%

-96,583

2,879,804

2,976,387

Maine

-2.7%

-17,919

640,489

658,408

Minnesota

-2.5%

-75,741

2,917,395

2,993,136

Georgia

-2.4%

-120,389

4,885,700

5,006,089

North Dakota

-2.2%

-8,737

380,857

389,594

Oregon

-1.2%

-25,183

1,996,499

2,021,682

Oklahoma

-0.9%

-15,752

1,764,156

1,779,908

Wyoming

-0.7%

-2,008

279,164

281,172

Nebraska

-0.7%

-6,841

1,003,735

1,010,576

Montana

-0.4%

-2,107

510,642

512,749

Idaho

-0.4%

-3,290

860,567

863,857

South Dakota

-0.1%

-415

447,030

447,445

Wisconsin

0.1%

1,576

2,972,669

2,971,093

Kansas

0.1%

1,660

1,451,356

1,449,696

Utah

0.1%

1,832

1,591,313

1,589,481

Mississippi

0.5%

5,854

1,204,000

1,198,146

Alabama

0.7%

14,339

2,181,075

2,166,736

Tennessee

1.6%

52,156

3,277,735

3,225,579

Alaska

1.8%

5,738

324,791

319,053

Expert Insight on COVID-19 Employment Shifts

MoneyGeek reached out to nine experts to weigh in on the employment shifts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read their insightful answers to these five questions below.

  1. What role has the fiscal stimulus had on job loss and recovery? What impact has it had on states, businesses and individuals?
  2. What else could government officials do to balance economic recovery with public health?
  3. Given the ripple effect that jobs gained or lost in one industry have on other industries, which sectors are you most interested in or concerned about?
  4. How would you expect state economies to change over time?
  5. Is there anything else you see in the state employment/unemployment data that offers insight into what may lie ahead?
Jason Furman
Jason Furman

Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy, Harvard Kennedy School

Megan Greene
Megan Greene

Senior Fellow, Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, Harvard Kennedy School

Mike Rosenbaum
Mike Rosenbaum

Founder & CEO of Arena

Christopher T. Stanton
Christopher T. Stanton

Marvin Bower Associate Professor

Richard B. Freeman
Richard B. Freeman

Faculty Co-Director, Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School; Co-Director, Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities; and Herbert Ascherman Professor of Economics, Harvard University

Claudia Sahm
Claudia Sahm

Director of Macroeconomic Policy, Washington Center for Equitable Growth and Former Section Chief in the Division of Consumer and Community Affairs at the Federal Reserve Board

Hilary Hoynes
Hilary Hoynes

Professor of Public Policy and Economics, Haas Distinguished Chair in Economic Disparities, and Co-director, Berkeley Opportunity Lab, University of California Berkeley

Terri Gerstein
Terri Gerstein

Director, State and Local Enforcement Project, Harvard Labor and Worklife Program, and Senior Fellow, Economic Policy Institute

Jesse Rothstein
Jesse Rothstein

Professor of Public Policy and Economics and Faculty Director, California Policy Lab, University of California, Berkeley

Finding the Balance Between Public Health and Economic Recovery

On the tightrope between public health and economic survival, states must find a safe balance. Politics, public opinion, science and pragmatism are all at play. Regulation and consumer confidence may be the most potent ingredients in states’ economic recovery.

Though the relationship between COVID-19 cases and job losses appears linear, some states are over- and under-performing the trends. Governors, local leaders and business owners can learn from those who are most effectively balancing economic recovery and mitigating health risks.

Despite near-term economic hardship caused by restrictive state and local policies, controlling the virus's spread is likely to lead to more sustainable, robust economic recovery. Some industries and areas dependent on them will face the longest path back to economic health.

Methodology

The MoneyGeek data analysis team examined monthly employment data by state from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and COVID-19 cases and deaths from Johns Hopkins’ dataset.

The team identified the lowest monthly employment number since February 2020 versus February's employment levels to calculate the total lost jobs due to the coronavirus. The number of recovered jobs is calculated as the gain in jobs from the lowest employment month to the current month. A state with zero jobs recovered indicates that the current month is their lowest month.

MoneyGeek identified each state's lowest month for employment since the start of the pandemic, then added three weeks to the 12th day of that month to reflect the BLS employment data collection timeline. The growth rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths was then assessed through August 2nd, three weeks after July 12th, the last month of employment data available at the time of publication.

Data Definitions

Cases Per 100 Jobs: Reported COVID-19 cases (see methodology above) divided by Jobs Recovered multiplied by 100.

Deaths Per 10,000 Jobs: Reported COVID-19 related deaths (see COVID-19 data methodology above) divided by Jobs Recovered multiplied by 10,000.

Low Month: The state's month of lowest employment since February 2020.

Lost Jobs: The decline in jobs between February 2020 and either the Low Month or the most recent month for which there is data, depending on how it's used in that section.

Jobs Recovered: The difference in jobs from the current period to the jobs in the Low Month.

Jobs Recovered (%): Jobs Recovered divided by the absolute value of Lost Jobs from February to the Low Month.

Political Party Voting History: Red and blue labels were used to define each state by the voting history in the past four presidential elections. States where the republican candidate won 3 out of the 4 elections were labeled as red and states where the Democratic candidate won three out of the four elections were labeled as blue. States that had a 2-2 tie were defined by the current governor's party affiliation.

Recovered Jobs as % of Feb Jobs: Jobs Recovered divided by the February 2020 jobs as reported by the BLS. This measure is used to assess the impact of the recovered jobs.

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