More than a dozen US states met or surpassed their pre-pandemic employment levels in March, and more than a third reported record unemployment rates, according to data from the state Bureau of Labor Statistics. -United.
As the country recovers from the heavy job losses suffered at the start of the pandemic, the latest figures show a clearer picture of a regional recovery, with some of the most dramatic and sustained job gains in the states. of the Rockies. .
“The Mountain West is clearly a cut above the rest of the country,” said Adam Kamins, economist at Moody’s Analytics.
Utah, Idaho and Montana saw their jobs return fastest to pre-pandemic employment levels in February 2020 and led the nation in job growth – at 4.99 %, 4.95% and 3.25%, respectively, in March. Those three states, along with Arizona and Colorado, had all recouped their losses, with Nevada, Wyoming and New Mexico trailing slightly, according to BLS data.
The South has also become a strong region for the jobs recovery, Kamins said, noting employment increases in Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee. Arkansas, South Dakota and Indiana are other states that have achieved a return to full employment.
One of the main reasons for the robust growth in these areas is the influx of new residents, Kamins said. The pandemic and increased ability to work remotely has prompted more people to migrate from dense, expensive cities to cheaper parts of the country, Kamins said.
In recent years, cities like Austin, Texas; Boise, Idaho; Bozeman, Montana and Denver have become havens for coastal transplants looking for cheaper housing and a change of pace.
But demographics and migration patterns are only part of the story. Factors such as a state’s geographic makeup, major industries, weather, and regulatory environment also contribute to economic and employment performance. For example, at the start of the pandemic, the decline of the tourism, manufacturing and restaurant industries weighed more heavily on states like Georgia, Kentucky and Hawaii, while the growth of agriculture, services finance, technology, warehousing and transportation has helped soften the blow in places like South Dakota, Utah and Nebraska.
As the pandemic dragged on, regional and local approaches to the health crisis also played their part, said Oren Klachkin, chief economist at Oxford Economics.
“Generally, we’ve seen that the Midwest and the South, from an economic perspective, have been relatively less hard hit. [by the pandemic] and it’s because of the local officials and how they reacted to the shock itself,” he said. “Meanwhile, we see cities on the West Coast and East Coast, particularly in the Northeast, still lagging behind in terms of their recovery.”
Many cities and coastal states – including New York and California – implemented strict restrictions on people and businesses when the pandemic hit.
The measures, which have had a negative impact on the tourism, leisure and hospitality industries, have particularly affected places like New York and Los Angeles, which rely heavily on these sectors. Moreover, those restrictions were generally in place longer — and often applied more intermittently in coastal states than in states that opened their economies faster, said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo.
“[States like Florida] were more consistent in how they handled the pandemic, while California and New York vacillated over which businesses could open and when they were allowed to reopen, and then the rules changed,” he said. -he declares.
Other regulatory approaches have had mixed success: The federal government’s expansion of unemployment benefits to workers who were not previously eligible for them – including the self-employed, independent contractors and gig workers – have been widely hailed as compensating for significant revenue losses. But some states claimed the benefits were preventing people from returning to work and cut them off early. However, research shows that states that cut extended benefits early did not see greater employment benefits than those that did not.
“I think it’s undeniable that there is certainly some early resilience from states that have taken the economic approach [and instituted fewer restrictions and lockdowns]”said Matt Colyar, associate economist at Moody’s Analytics who created the back-to-normal index with CNN Business. a sample of 51 very different industrial compositions. and geographical.”
Overall, the United States is only 1.6 million fewer jobs than its pre-pandemic employment levels, having added 431,000 more jobs in March, when unemployment fell. to a pandemic low of 3.6%. The labor market is poised to recover nearly eight years faster than it did after the Great Recession.