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May 22 2020

How bad is it?

Thanks for asking, seriously.

Nearly every U.S. state had historic levels of unemployment last month, new data shows
By Tony Romm, Washington Post
May 22, 2020

Roughly one-quarter of the labor force in Nevada, Michigan and Hawaii is unemployed, and nearly every other state registered a record-high jobless rate last month, illustrating the historic, widespread economic havoc wrought by the coronavirus.

The dour figures released by the Labor Department on Friday illustrate how closed shops and factories, sharp declines in tourism and a slew of measures meant to arrest the spread of the pandemic have disproportionately walloped some regions more than others, contributing to the highest national unemployment rate since the Great Depression.

Nationwide, 43 states in April registered jobless rates higher than at any point since the government started tracking such data more than 40 years ago. The figure generally represents an undercount of the total percentage of Americans out of work, partly because federal officials calculate it by surveying households and including only those actively looking for new positions. The data also is weeks old, failing to take into account mounting jobs losses that have come even as some states have started reopening.

By the end of April, though, Nevada had the highest unemployment rate of any state, with 28.2 percent of its workers out of a job, according to federal figures. Michigan and Hawaii each had an unemployment rate exceeding 22 percent, the Labor Department found. In New York, the state hit hardest by the coronavirus outbreak, more than 14 percent of workers were jobless.

“In large part, this is driven by industry mix,” said Mark Muro, senior fellow and policy director with the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. “You begin to see a map that includes Nevada, Vermont, Hawaii, Maine, Rhode Island and other sort-of leisure or vacation places that are extremely vulnerable to food and drink and accommodation losses.”

“We know that is hugely driving these statistics,” he said.

In other states such as Michigan, Muro said, the decision to close factory floors for automakers and other manufacturing-intensive industries contributed to the widespread job losses.

Connecticut, Maryland and Minnesota, meanwhile, were among the states registering unemployment rates below 10 percent last month.

Economists said the new data offers a cautionary tale to policymakers, a day after the Labor Department reported that a total of 38 million Americans had filed for unemployment benefits over the past nine weeks. Absent additional federal aid, the job losses could worsen, experts said, inflicting once-unfathomable economic hardships on workers, their families and the states where they live.

Adding to the trouble are potential “spillover effects,” said Tara M. Sinclair, an associate professor of economics at George Washington University. Prolonged unemployment in the services and hospitality industries, for example, could result in further drops in consumer spending, threatening even businesses that have managed to stay afloat.

“With demand shock,” she said, “the risk is that no job is safe.”

Supply Side Economics is sheer idiocy. You can’t push on a string or create Demand for Buggywhips.

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