The Unemployment Rate for Each State, from 7.9% in Connecticut to 28.2% in Nevada

How rates soared by state from February to March to April.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

The unemployment rates by state for April were released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They range from 7.9% in Connecticut to a catastrophic 28.2% in Nevada, up from 3.6% in February. Every state has its own challenges. In Nevada, the casinos and shows and hotels and everything that comes along with them have been put on ice, and people in the US and from around the world aren’t traveling to Nevada anymore to gamble.

Hawaii, another economy where tourism is hugely important, has seen its unemployment rate jump nearly nine-fold from 2.6% March to 22.3% in April.

The unemployment rates of the big four states – they account for one-third of the total US population – are in the same double-digit middle-of-road-ish horrible range, middle-of-road within the spectrum from 7.9% to 28.2%, with unemployment rates of 12.8% in Texas, 12.9% in Florida, 14.5% in New York, and 15.5% in California.

These unemployment rates are not from the weekly unemployment claims report released yesterday. But they are from the monthly jobs data that is based on household surveys that were collected in mid-April. The national unemployment rate and related data were released on May 8 as part of the monthly jobs report, which I covered back then… Collapse of the Labor Market in 5 Charts: Employment Plunged to 1999 Level. Everything’s a Gut-Wrenching Record. Today’s release provides the regional details.

Since this data was collected in mid-April, it shows unemployment rates well before their peaks. The next jobs report, to be released in early June, will show the results from household surveys collected in mid-May. And those unemployment rates may be closer to the peak.

The table below shows the unemployment rates for each state in April (second column), followed to the right by the rates of partial-Covid March (third column) and pre-Covid February (fourth column). The states are in order from the lowest unemployment rate to the highest unemployment rate.

The state’s population (Census 2019 estimates), expressed in millions, is in the fifth column on the right. If the right columns get clipped on your smartphone, hold your device in landscape position.






Connecticut 7.9 3.7 3.8 3.6
Minnesota 8.1 3.1 3.1 5.6
Nebraska 8.3 4.2 2.9 1.9
North Dakota 8.5 2.2 3.6 0.8
Wyoming 9.2 3.7 3.5 0.6
Utah 9.7 3.6 3.5 3.2
Missouri 9.7 4.5 3.5 6.1
Maryland 9.9 3.3 3.3 6.0
South Dakota 10.2 3.3 2.5 0.9
Arkansas 10.2 4.8 3.5 3.0
Iowa 10.2 3.7 2.8 3.2
Maine 10.6 3.2 3.2 1.3
Virginia 10.6 3.3 2.4 8.5
Kansas 11.2 3.1 3.1 2.9
Montana 11.3 3.5 3.5 1.1
New Mexico 11.3 5.9 4.8 2.1
Colorado 11.3 4.5 2.5 5.8
Idaho 11.5 2.6 2.7 1.8
Georgia 11.9 4.2 3.1 10.6
South Carolina 12.1 2.6 3.4 5.1
North Carolina 12.2 4.4 3.4 10.5
Arizona 12.6 5.5 4.5 7.3
Texas 12.8 4.7 3.4 29.0
Alaska 12.9 5.6 5.8 0.7
Alabama 12.9 3.5 2.7 4.9
Florida 12.9 4.3 2.8 21.5
Oklahoma 13.7 3.1 4.1 4.0
Wisconsin 14.1 3.4 4.9 5.8
Oregon 14.2 3.3 3.2 4.2
Delaware 14.3 5.1 3.9 1.0
Louisiana 14.5 6.9 5.2 4.6
New York 14.5 4.5 3.7 19.5
Tennessee 14.7 3.5 3.3 6.8
Massachusetts 15.1 2.9 2.8 6.9
Pennsylvania 15.1 6.0 3.3 12.8
West Virginia 15.2 6.1 2.6 1.8
New Jersey 15.3 3.8 3.8 8.9
Mississippi 15.4 5.3 5.4 3.0
Kentucky 15.4 5.8 4.2 4.5
Washington 15.4 5.1 2.6 7.6
California 15.5 5.3 3.9 39.5
Vermont 15.6 3.2 2.5 0.6
New Hampshire 16.3 2.6 2.6 1.4
Illinois 16.4 4.6 3.4 12.7
Ohio 16.8 5.5 2.2 11.7
Indiana 16.9 3.2 3.1 6.7
Rhode Island 17.0 4.6 4.7 1.1
Hawaii 22.3 2.6 2.7 1.4
Michigan 22.7 4.1 3.6 10.0
Nevada 28.2 6.3 3.6 3.1

Tens of millions of people, many at the lower end of the income scale, lost their jobs. But stocks surge thanks to the Fed’s helicopter money for Wall Street & asset holders. Read…  Collapse of the Labor Market in 5 Charts: Employment Plunged to 1999 Level. Everything’s a Gut-Wrenching Record

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  94 comments for “The Unemployment Rate for Each State, from 7.9% in Connecticut to 28.2% in Nevada

  1. Wisdom Seeker says:

    Yesterday after the discussion on a prior thread, I worked up a comparison of the state-level unemployment rates and correlated it against the current COVID danger in each state, measured by the average daily known COVID deaths per million population over the past week.

    There’s no state with a high COVID danger and a low unemployment rate – the states with high danger levels are all partly shut down.

    The states with low unemployment rates all have low COVID danger levels, some less than the typical US danger level from ordinary pneumonia & flu.

    Interestingly, though, there are a range of states with high unemployment relative to the current COVID danger. Some of these are tourist-economy states like Hawaii, whose low COVID levels are the result of the travel restrictions which impact tourism. But other states look like they have some headroom to regain employment without adding too much health risk.

    Overall there are many states where COVID is no longer (or never was) the leading cause of death, and they have room to expand the economy.

    Going back to the states with high COVID danger levels, most of those are improving gradually.

    If people are interested, I could put in the work. to make the graphs professional and write up an article for Wolf over the weekend?

    • Wisdom Seeker says:

      P.S. The unemployment rate being used is the continuing-claims covered unemployment rate that Wolf published from the weekly claims data. The April data above is too stale to show what I’m talking about. (Connecticut is one of the worst-hit states for COVID right now but had low unemployment in April — maybe they were late to take precautions?)

      • Joe Saba says:

        many gig and self employed still not counted
        throw in ILLEGALS in our state (arizona) and you’ll find real unemployment is way over 20%

        • El Katz says:

          I have friends who work at the company I retired from. It’s a large, well known entity. The entire company (with the exception of a few – and I do mean *few* – essential workers) have been furloughed without pay on a rotating basis. IMHO, they’re testing to see who can be done without in the near future as all the signs are there of a contraction in employment.

          A voluntary separation plan has been offered, along with early retirement and the not well veiled threat of a non-voluntary separation if they don’t get enough of option 1 and 2 above.

          An unnamed airline has started calling back flight attendants who took furloughs because the slight additional PAX require more than one FA – so that could be a positive.

          Memorial Day in the U.S. will be interesting. Should be enlightening what the public chooses to do re: travel and spending.

          Add to that the number of illegals in CA…..

        • Tim says:

          Just a small point:

          The industrial revolution, as led for time by Great Britain, owed a lot to Huguenot refugees both in Great Britain and elsewhere. Progress in textiles and metallurgy amongst other things.

          The industrial advances of that played an important part in the development of, later, civilisations.

          I don’t advocate open borders.

          I do, however, advocate care with the term ‘ILLEGALS’.

        • Cas127 says:


          The US grants over 1 million foreign citizens lawful permanent resident status in the US every single year (the habitually biased and politically corrupt coverage of the issue in the MSM behaves as though the US has *no* legal immigration process that can be used).

          People who choose to ignore that legal process because it does not suit their immediate interests are by definition breaking the law.

          Would you prefer the term criminal to illegal?

        • to paraphrase Woody Allen, the only cultural advantage of living in arizona is they have no daylight savings time.

        • Tim says:

          I do so see your point and I do respect it.

          I suppose I can only talk from the standpoint of a grumbly born of a mongrel nation, flawed and remarkable as it is.

          Your point I would think is about volume, not principle.

          Howsoever, please read ‘The Suitcase’, by Sergei Dovlatov.

        • Tim says:


          Well they must be the just worst sort.

          Refuseniks, commies, damned fascist bast*rds…..

          How can they not know the joy of the clocks going back, that extra….. snooze…. every october :)

          That said, Arizona is the sort of place, like alaska and others, that I’d be wary of wandering into without a marlin guide gun…

          Only joking.

        • Tim says:

          Dan Romig.

          You warm my heart man!

      • Jessy James says:

        The Reno/Carson City area has a HIGH pop of retired folks that love to live in RV parks and gamble. I said from the beginning–Nevada will be the first go bankrupt. I drove thru Vegas last Thursday at 5PM. I was SHOCKED at dead the freeways were. This recession started in January, not March.

        • Tim says:

          The police in the UK have had a field day in fining people taking their cars on to long empty roads…..

          No joke. Bast*rds.

        • WES says:


          Same here in Ontario!

          Police must still need to meet their money quota to justify their positions!

        • polecat says:

          By your description, it sounds as though the Walkin Dude himself could’ve had the run of the place ..

        • Let States Go BK says:

          Illinois will be way before Nevada!
          Illinois is so insolvent they backed away from the last round of bond sales!!

        • Dan Romig says:

          Minnesota’s governor, Tim Walz, issued this ‘Emergency Executive Order’ on Friday, March 27. It had a nice ‘Activities Exemptions’ waiver:
          “Individuals may engage in outdoor activities; i.e. walking, hiking, running, biking, driving for pleasure, hunting, or fishing.”

          Wolf Street readers know I’m a Minnesotan, and proud of it (maybe full of it too ,eh?), but that’s another reason why.

          This spring, I upgraded from an 18 year old sports bike to a crazy-fast Italian rocketship, and the SC400 sports cars I’d driven for 17 years have made way for a BMW M4.

          I would like to thank my governor for thinking about my need to engage in “driving for pleasure” when he issued his Executive Order! Rest assured, I have done so.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Is “driving for pleasure” exempted from speed limits? It was in Texas and Oklahoma in my younger years :-]

        • Tim says:

          wrong thread above.

          Dan, you warm my heart, man!

      • Thomas Roberts says:

        Wisdom Seeker,

        I’m still trying to figure out, just exactly how contagious/dangerous CCP19 is. I get most of my information about it from Chris Martenson over at Peak Prosperity who has a Phd in Pathology, who has been talking about it since January. I haven’t been watching every single video he puts out though.

        Right now the theory that most makes sense to me. Is that greater than 75% of people are asymptomatic, all the way through being infected, possibly even close to 90%. It’s also possible that a very large majority only show very minor symptoms, all the way through being infected. This is backed up by the antibodies studies, but, the antibodies tests are potentially faulty.

        Another less sure of theory I have is that. Chris kept mentioning that allegedly with a virus like CCP19, if you could be intentionally given a very tiny amount of the virus, your body would have more time to prepare antibodies to fight it and have a much better outcome. If this is true, in theory, in public, if you were infected by someone who was asymptomatic or only very mildly symptomatic. You would probably have less of the virus in you to start with and have a better outcome, as opposed to being infected by someone who is very sick “which will likely give you a higher virus count to start with” and your body has less time to prepare. In theory, asymptomatic people who are at low risk interacting almost exclusively with other low risk people will cause them to be far more likely to asymptomatic and the virus will spread through society like this. And high risk people like a nursing home will experience the exact opposite. I have no idea if this true, but, it would explain a-lot.

        What are your thoughts on this?

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Thomas Roberts,

          Before Covid-19, Chris Martenson used to give this bio:

          “Chris Martenson, Ph.D. (Duke), MBA (Cornell) is an economic researcher and futurist specializing in energy and resource depletion, and co-founder of (along with Adam Taggart). As one of the early Econo-bloggers who forecasted the housing market collapse and stock market correction, Chris rose to prominence with the launch of his seminal video seminar: The Crash Course (also published in book form, Wiley, March 2011).

        • MC01 says:

          A few snippets from one of the worst affected areas in the world, albeit nowadays nobody cares about us anymore because we don’t provide enough horror stories anymore.

          First, lockdowns have been so ineffective because by the time they were declared the virus was already everywhere. We went into partial lockdown on February 24 and full-on hard lockdown on March 9. The virus first had arrived in Italy in very early January or late December already, with the earlier date now seemingly more credible. In short we tried to stop this thing when it was already too late.
          Second, partial lockdowns like Germany and Norway had appear to be far more effective than hard lockdown at lowering mortality and hospitalization rates than hard lockdowns. Outside physical activity in particular should be encouraged, not forbidden, since it’s very evident it helps the immune system fight the virus, albeit exactly how this happens is not exactly clear.
          Third, I won’t beat around the bush: in my Province out of 2,457 Covid-19-linked deaths so far, “over 1,600” (the exact number is subject to an ongoing revision by healthcare authorities) have been in nursing homes. Nursing homes prohibited all outside visits and stopped receiving new patients on February 15 already. Patients were literally isolated in their rooms. Yet the virus got in anyway and killed hundreds anyway.
          Fourth, again I won’t beat around the bush: new cases are overwhelmingly mild or even very mild in nature, to the point home quarantine is now the standard practice. Yes, my Region still has slightly over 2,000 Covid-19 hospital patients, but these are overwhelmingly long-term patients: most (the exact number seems to vary, but in the last few days a lot of crazy administrative stuff has happened) have been hospitalized for over 30 days now and total numbers have been thumbling down for weeks now.
          Fifth: why this change in behavior from the virus, we still aren’t told, as we aren’t told where the new cases originate. Detailed epidemiological data stopped being available to the public on May 4, the day the lockdown ended. What we do know is the number of new cases is going down faster than originally expected (probably because people are more careful than originally expected) and that as of yesterday no Italian Region is consider at “high risk of contagion” anymore. All Regions but three are considered “low risk” and the remaining three are considered “moderate risk”.
          Sixth: so far antibody serum tests have been a very mixed bag across various control populations, hinting they may not be very reliable yet. To complicate matters it seems a very large part of the population (estimated to run from 40 to 80%) doesn’t get sick from the virus and doesn’t develop antibodies. They just carry the virus around, completely harmless to them but potentially lethal to others. Needless to say this is a very hot potato politically speaking.
          Seventh: I don’t understand why people are slamming their fists on the table and screaming “there will never be a vaccine!”. Doom-mongers should really stop their Private James Frazer impersonation because it’s getting old. ;-)
          The aim of a Covid-19 vaccine is not to destroy and eradicate the virus, but to make its effects milder. This means that people will get a cold instead of landing in the ICU. Developing such a vaccine is not exactly impossible: that’s what is done every year with the flu, whose vaccine works exactly in the same fashion. AstraZeneca’s claims of having their vaccine in mass-production this Fall already are not as far-fetched as they seem.

          The big question mark is, of course, what happens if new cases keep on going down and keep on being mild. Interest in a vaccine would rapidly wane, so the late-comers will probably just drop out of the race if they cannot deliver the goods fast enough: a dozen vaccines to choose from is probably more than we’ll hopefully ever need.

        • Wisdom Seeker says:

          Hi Thomas and MC01 –

          Thanks for the updates and the comments!

          Thomas, it’s not prudent to take all of your data from a single source, when your life is on the line and the subject in question is brand-new and/or poorly understood by anyone.

          I have not been reading every paper but a few careful studies indicated that ~33-75% are asymptomatic, with that group concentrated more among the young. The big problem is that we’re not psychologically programmed to treat ourselves as contagious if we don’t have symptoms, so far too many of the asymptomatic cases go about their lives spreading the disease unwittingly.

          Getting self-infected “with a low virus count” only works if the amount of time you can slow down the virus is substantial compared to the amount of time it takes your immune system to defeat it. Not sure that’s true for a lot of people. Some people’s immune systems have a lot of trouble with COVID so an extra day or two of low-level exposure might not help them. Many COVID cases take weeks to resolve, unlike flu which is over in a couple of days.

          Another possible reason why nursing homes get hit worse is because the patients are already unhealthy (or they would’t be in a nursing home), they don’t get enough exercise or sunshine so their immune systems are weakened, and the living conditions don’t give people enough distance. Plus the one-caregiver / many-patients model is practically a recipe for spreading disease.

          It’s also not at all clear what level of exposure, if any, leads to subsequent immunity.

          I’m with MC01 about the antibody studies – they have a substantial false-positive rate, one that is comparable to the prevalence of the disease among many populations, so the stats are really not persuasive. But watching people talk about them does tell you who’s out to push an agenda rather than thoughtfully seeking the truth!

          MC01, I think the vaccine issue is that there’s never been a coronavirus vaccine before, so it’s not prudent to assume that one will magically appear on a given timeline. But really glad to hear that the worst seems to have passed in Italy!

          I am personally following the approach laid out in my previous article:

          1) Monitor the local death rate (per million population) relative to other causes of death. Our local death rate has fallen to within a factor of 2-4 of the flu mortality rate, so the risk is dropping and we’ve begun to resume activities WITH precautions.

          2) Always take full precautions when out and about – assuming I might be infected and contagious and everyone else is too – to do my share to reduce the infection rate. Once I got used to it, wearing a mask and washing hands as needed really is not hard. And I never go within 6-10 feet of anyone for more than a few seconds.

          As MC01 indicated, it’s really that simple.

      • roddy6667 says:

        If you are an engineer or middle management who lost his real job and is now working two shitty retail jobs so your family has groceries and sleeps indoors, you are considered employed. This has been going on for many years in CT. A grammar school I know of posted an opening for a janitor. They were flooded with overqualified applicants, including engineers over 50. Sad situation.
        In the 1980’s, the largest employer in CT was United Technologies, with companies like Pratt & Whitney, Hamilton Standard, Sikorsky, Norden, Otis, and Carrier. High paying, stable jobs with excellent benefits. Now the largest employer is Stop & Shop, a Boston based supermarket chain.
        The unemployment numbers don’t tell the whole story, or even the most important part.

        • Tony22 says:

          And, employers will demand Spanish, so that the new employee can integrate and work with the other underpaid staff. In Northern California, it is impossible to get a restaurant kitchen or food prep job in most urban areas without Spanish language proficiency. Some places it’s not even Spanish, it’s some Indian dialect like Quechua, or whatever. Wait until the graduating college students and unemployed Millennials try to get a lowly job and are disqualificados. Meanwhile, the patronage plutocrats skate forward on the bones of the former middle class, served by their ant lines of peons, willing to work, cheap, humble and obediently.

      • Phil says:

        CT was among the first to take precautions, but suffered because of geographic proximity to NYC. Our employment remains high because we have a lot of essential industries (defense, manufacturing, insurance, banking.)

    • M says:

      I suspect the scared, who are not employed and not looking due to fear, are also grossly undercounted. The recent MIT study of interstate links shows what many feared: due to the freedom to travel between states, the worst states can infect those which handled things best. Exponential virus growth and insufficient testing and tracing resources indicate once a cluster starts it can explode without sending any notices to health authorities.

      This has gotten too politicized, so we must question all information: e.g., the recent CDC report that this virus cannot be EASILY transmitted via surfaces despite prior studies seems unsupported scientifically and too conveniently timed to support reopening. Lack of trust would slow any reopening.

    • Engin-ear says:

      Very nice of you to offer your service with graphs.

      I would say that we need to monitor closely the differents industries and service sectors – more than Stated exposed to covid19 risk.

      In our global real economy markets and supply chain, your local covid19 risks has little to do with your economic outlook.

    • Yaun says:

      There is a really nice set of graphs from twitter user isfBob who updates the sets daily with publicly available data.

      The most important chart for the US is the log new case count vs log total case count (both normalized for pop):

      From this it looks like the ‘low risk’ states that reopened are starting to see an uptick. If this continues to the exponential growth level again, we may see more lockdowns.

    • Javert Chip says:


      Interesting analysis.

      Might be instructive to take the states you’ve identified as “high unemployment relative to the current COVID danger” and analyze them by Democrat or Republican governor.

      • char says:

        Totally unimportant. What matters is not current unemployment but unemployment in 3 or 6 month.

        • Javert Chip says:

          Irrespective of your opinion, I disagree.

          It will be interesting to see how different political philosophies address risk & freedom in the Covid-19 era.

          With a couple exceptions (security, rule of law, government beholden to the people) can’t really “create” much of anything; however it frequently (and currently does) tinkerer with the “value creation” process. The only thing most politicians can run is their mouth.

          People can only be paid Monopoly money for so long.

    • MCH says:

      Hawaii would be an interesting laboratory study in the near term on the effects of C19 on the economy. It’s population is somewhat captive, can’t just pick up and drive across the state lines. It had to make the same choice to protect its population, but it is an economic suicide pact.

      It’s primary income source is done for the near term. What’s left is dependent on government jobs, and everything else will stem from there.

      We also get to see whether one party rule can be effective is enabling recovery of the economy.

      • senecas’s cliff says:

        My wife’s old high school classmates on Maui are glad to see the tourists gone. They are sick of crappy tourism jobs and would rather just surf, eat the local fruits and veggies and play the ukulele.

        • MCH says:

          yep, and how sustainable is that in the long run?

          A couple of friends are currently on the unemployment rolls, and no idea what to do next because they’re entire lives have been in the tourism industry. They have savings to some extent, but what will happen in a year or two when tourism hasn’t returned, and they start having trouble paying rent.

          Those are going to be real life concerns that won’t just get swept under the rug. Eat local fruits and veggies, yep, sounds good, until you realize you have to sleep somewhere and buy those fruits and veggies from someone

        • Javert Chip says:

          senecas’s cliff

          Nobody is forcing any of your wife’s schoolmates to work in “…crappy tourism jobs…”. That’s their decision.

          They’ve always been perfectly free to stay home, eat twigs and berries & surf.

          Of course, people who actually work for a living might feel somewhat negative about subsidizing life-long fruit eating surfers.

  2. Tim says:

    There must come point where reporting these numbers starts to cost you on some level.

    It being no matter whether there was an element of predictability worked into current events by chains of parallel contributory past events over many years that are coming together like a newly woven rope.

    Thank you for doing so, but look after yourself in the process.


  3. DawnsEarlyLight says:

    Holy Heck!!!

  4. DawnsEarlyLight says:

    So, the lockdowns were generally, a waste of time?

    • Scott says:

      No, we needed time to gather accurate data, prepare the hospitals and build test kits. Now, we can isolate the vulnerable to dying from the virus and let everyone go back to work.

    • Tim says:


      It is easy to look back through coloured shades at what may seem to be the right thing that should have ben done.

      There are two limitations that in terms of COVID-19.

      The first is that it was a new infection. It’s effects and ability to mutate were unknown. I many respects they still are. The risks of lung fibrosis and significant post-viral fatigue, amongst other potential consequences, will not be fully understood for at least 5 years. It will may well be 10 years or so before that is achieved.

      The second is that your general politician gets elected with a handful of things they advertise that they believe in. Not necessarily exactly what they believe in, but near enough for there to be some sense of a common understanding with those that voted for them.

      (I can hear the howls of protest, but I’ll go on).

      What I can with little doubt surmise is that only a small minority of politicians had in their election prospectus ‘Here’s how I would manage a global health crisis’. I would also suggest that very few had experience to qualify them as respectable voices in the current circumstances.

      And that’s just the new crop in the UK. Both sides of the Chamber. I doubt that it is different in principle in the US.

      So what happens is that the pre-existing relationships, the groupings of individuals of like mind, pause for a while in shock. They then look to how they can either profit or work to the better good (depending on their interpretations of what either of those two things means).

      And then they act.

      Whilst I would be surprised if self-interest doesn’t colour the actions of your, our, representatives, I’d be more surprised if right now they aren’t working to your ends, as far as they see what those ends may be.

      • Cas127 says:

        And what of the “expert” permanent bureaucracies budgeted in the billions (every single year) and whose employees are paid in excess of US household income and who have job security and benefits even further in excess of US medians?

        What role do those 20 million members of the tax-paid, political class play?

        Citizen ignorance and MSM skull-pumping has fostered a nomenklatura in the US, a counterfeit government “elite” whose funding is based on promises and whose actual performance is ignored…because they have purchased that privilege through the sale of their political support (20 million direct government employees is about 1/3rd of the way to a voting majority in the US…chip in spouses, and that is 66% of what is needed to control the “democratic” US.).

      • Tim says:

        But how th f*ck we rehabilitate Rory Stewart after his latest forays into hubris, God only knows.

        Suspect the door’s open tho’

    • WES says:


      Up here in Ontario, the graphs for coronavirus cases and deaths continued to climb through out the 2 month plus lockdown. In other words the curves did not flatten! They went up!

      Now all the politicians are in a hurry to reopen the economy. They want to get ahead of the curve.

      If they continue the lockdown and the curve continues to steepen, then the voters will finally figure out the lockdown didn’t work and blame the politicians.

      By opening up the economy now, the politicians can say the continuing increase is due to opening up the economy and this was to be expected.

      The politicians desperately want to get out in front of the curve to avoid blame for the failed lockdown.

      The lockdown failed simply because few are wearing masks. In the beginning, all of our top health people told the people masks didn’t work!

      The lockdown was doomed to fail before it started!

      • Soupcon says:

        Here in Ontario, not enough testing has gone on to really determine the real number of coronavirus cases. They have only to my knowledge been testing those with symptoms and not testing those who may have had contact with an infected person. Many people can be infected but are without are symptoms so Ontario IMHO is grossly underestimating the real rate of infection so that the province can say it is once again open for business.

      • Paulo says:

        In BC the lockdown actually went quite well. Our new case loads have been in the single digits several times this past week. The wearing of face masks has been encouraged as doing something worthwhile for others, for your community. Now, on June 1st we are in phase two of reopening but consumers seem to be pretty hesitant of risking what we have achieved the past few months.

        The curve has been flattened, but politicians and citizens are being very very careful about reopening the economy. And much of the economy stayed open, actually. If you took tourism, restaurants, and bars out of the equation our unemployment rate wouldn’t be too bad, actually.

        A few comments above some mentioned police harassment for fine collections, etc. What we have noticed is the absolute lack of policing. I don’t think the RCMP want to get out of their cars, if the truth be known. Empty roads and no policing = speeding and aggressive driving from what I can see.

        • Dan Romig says:

          Speeding has definitely picked up in the Twin Cities. One might get the idea that I drive like an idiot and speed from my above comment – I don’t. There are only a few places and moments where one can take advantage of driving a fast motorbike or car without being at risk of a ticket, a crash or being too aggressive around others.

          I would say that on a 60 mph speed limit highway, most people were going around 70 mph, but now that’s more like 80 mph. The Minnesota State Patrol has also had a huge increase in ticketing drivers going over 100 mph since the roads got less congested from the Stay At Home Order.

          I wonder what will become the new normal driving mode as time goes on. Will we go back to a few over the posted limit, or will it stay at 15 to 20 mph being in the ‘flow of traffic?’

        • Jeff T says:

          The states where marijuana is legal seem to have done the best at stay at home, wearing masks, and not worrying.

    • Engin-ear says:

      “So, the lockdowns were generally, a waste of time?”

      Eye-catching question… of poor design.

      The real question you may ask:
      “Was the lockdown a relevant response in the context of our imperfect knowing and understanding of the risk?”

      • DawnsEarlyLight says:

        You have your own question, I had mine, ‘designed’ to capture a wider response. Your question, from the start, has ‘design limitations’.

        • Engin-ear says:

          My own question is imperfect too.

          But if you look at our history, asking good questions and applying a proper reasoning, we accelerate greatly the problem solving.

          Covid19 is not the first virus, and not the last.
          Better learn sooner than later in the best possible way.

      • Tim says:

        Watch the numbers coming out of Brazil, for example.

        A rapidly ballooning situation on the scales we are seeing does not respond to ‘imperfect knowing’.

        There will be individuals reading this who have been on a beach looking at devastation. Their next step is, on presentation to hell, how do we find the still living, aaaannddd, then how do we stop dysentery….

        Positing ‘relevant response’ is, i fear, behind the curve on the graph of sociological impact, certainly for urban concentrations.

        Yes, dysentery is unlikely. But, community breakdown based upon fear, as much as economic desperation, is quite possible.

        Perhaps not in your neighbourhood….yet.

      • Mary Jane says:

        GOP Texas gov Rick Perry had a pragmatic stance on undocumented immigrants in Texas because they: cleaned homes, cared for children, bathed and fed the elderly – in great numbers.
        GOP CA gov Ronald Regan had a pragmatic view understanding that the food on his and others table was picked by Mexican workers.
        North Carolina had a harvesting crisis when undocumented workers were taken from the fields. The people who hired them looked the other way and food rotted.
        This administration has gone to extremes that other, more reality-based GOP people have not. We are shooting ourselves in the foot, I trust with legally purchased firearms!

  5. Ppp says:

    Here’s the eternal rule: closer contact = more cases. That’s forever. Now calculate.

  6. Sporkfed says:

    Subtract out government employees and government contractors and there isn’t much
    left. What about the healthcare industry which
    gets a good potion of its revenue from government ?

    • cesqy says:

      A lot (majority?) of medical care is non-essential, preventive, or cosmetic. A private hospital in Green Valley Az laid off medical workers during the height of the pandemic because of a lack of patients.

  7. Legend75 says:

    I do not want to downplay the economic tragedy and individual pain, it is horrible. BUT, can I play optimist and note that from your numbers, the US employment rate is around 86%. From everything I read, I always start to feel like half of all Americans must not be working, but that apparently is not true. And tragically I have read that 40% of those making less than $40,000 have lost their jobs. It’s a social AND economic disaster. In the Great Depression I think that 30% of people were unemployed. Apparently we have 14%. And as governments come to their senses over the coming months, we will all figure out ways to work. That will not help restaurants and airlines enough. But let’s say 1/3 of those people go back to work over the next year. That will mean unemployment of about 10%. That is also terrible, but it is not completely economically disastrous. Yes, we have a terrible and increasing debt burden, QE, etc. But those are problems for another day or year.

    • Engin-ear says:

      Beyond the indicators which are what they are, and measure what they measure in their particular way, there is a practical question of the point of no return.

    • Javert Chip says:


      Highest unemployment rate in US Great Depression was 24.9% (not 30%).

      Unclear about methodological consistency or appropriateness for accurately measuring a large-scale event

      • Cas127 says:

        And let’s not forget the hundreds of billions in PPP “loans” that are temporarily keeping hundreds of thousands of companies from laying off further tens of millions.

        What happens when that money runs out?

        • Javert Chip says:


          I don’t understand your comment’s relevance to my providing the highest unemployment rate for the Great Depression.

          Were you targeting someone else?

        • Cas127 says:


          Not criticizing your point, rather amplifying on it (ie, things will get worse when the PPP loans run out).

  8. Engin-ear says:

    “These unemployment rates… are from the monthly jobs data that is based on household surveys that were collected in mid-April.”

    Household surveys? Meaning questioning a sample of population crossing the fingers that the respondents are representative for whole population?

    Quite amazing in 2020 when some people fear that every citizen is tracked by mysterious organizations.

    Also (just curious): does the Bureau of Labor Statistics comment the statistics and trends in any analytic way?

    • The Rage says:

      That has been true like forever though. Its a rough read effected by demographics.

    • Wolf Richter says:


      “Household surveys? Meaning questioning a sample of population crossing the fingers that the respondents are representative for whole population?”

      No. That’s not how it works. The Census Bureau conducts the surveys for the BLS, by randomly selected addresses. Once you’re selected, you get a postcard, with an online login and phone number, and you must respond. This is compulsory, which keeps the randomness intact. These surveys are HUGE. They’re sent to about 60,000 households. We have been selected — so I know what this is like.

      The link explains is the methodology of the surveys and the employment report. Read it so you don’t have to make up your own theories:

      • Engin-ear says:


        I thank you heartly for the link – I read it with a great pleasure because it is a beautifully written piece of stats methology.

        Allowed me to understand the meaning of the estimates of the unemployment.

      • The Rage says:

        Wolf, while I agree with you, the demographic effect has a huge effect on household employment. Look at the growth in the late 20th century on the household survey and since 2000. That is the difference in cohort size, but also cohort size ability to produce growth. I would use everything since 1984 because structurally, how the US grows was fixed by then. It hasn’t changed much since.

        Job growth is generally slow, which has slowed down job hopping as well. But you generally keep it(if unhappily).

        The post-war era had very strong household employment as well, but that wasn’t driven by demographics as huge investment into DoD and related technologies helped spurred liquidity into the fully developing consumer debt markets. That is why it “felt” so good and created the myth of the “American dream” nonsense which was PR by the Democratic Party which had come into its dynasty for the first time since the Civil War by 1933(and didn’t end until 1980).

        Unemployment is not a perfect piece of data by far.

        • Cas127 says:


          Agreed, the unemployment rate is a flawed, somewhat politically engineered metric (ie, using the synthetic “labor force” as the denominator rather than simple working age population).

          Overall payroll counts are probably a much more accurate and honest measure, also generating monthly change numbers that can be used to measure C19 impact.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          But payroll counts don’t capture the gig workers and contract workers and self-employed, of which there are many.

        • Tim says:

          It could be said that the second half of the 20th century was no more than than a post-war pause. By which I mean an effective cold war armistice that never led to a shooting resolution period.

          Unfortunately, the generation are dead (for the most part) who could have retold about times, more natural, when it was otherwise.

          I think this is along the lines of what you meant.

        • Javert Chip says:

          Unless you are talking about “E” or “M” in E=MC^2, there probably is no such thing as a “”…perfect piece of data…”.

          You want the “unemployment rate” to mean what you understand it to be, and you’re somewhere between surprised to wildly upset that the government number doesn’t reflect your expectation..

          Too bad.

          The unemployment rate (there are actually 6 official rates) is reasonably well defined and methodically measured. All of this is disclosed in government materials.

          A simple statement like “…unemployment is not a perfect piece of data…” is simply a demonstration of a firm grasp of the obvious.

      • Cas127 says:


        You might also want to opine on the distinction between the BLS’ establishment survey (perceived to be more accurate because companies keep better records) and the population survey (perceived to be more sweeping/volatile because it includes the self reporting, self employed).

        Those two surveys always yield somewhat different unemployment rates and the disparity is widening now.

        • Wolf Richter says:


          As head-honcho of my media mogul empire, I also got that establishment survey about a year ago. That was actually interesting, all the questions they asked. Also compulsory. The problem with the establishment survey is that it doesn’t fully capture the gig workers and self-employed, and when they lose their work. So the household surveys give a broader picture. But in terms of companies “creating jobs,” the establishment survey is better.

      • MCH says:

        Wolf, you said compulsory, What’s the penalty for not answering.

        • Javert Chip says:

          Wild ass guess: it’s infinitely worse than knowingly lying to a FISA court.

          I’m guessing stripped naked & staked out over an ant hill in summer in Arizona (ok, I actually saw that in a 1950s cowboy movie, but still, it’s a damn good punishment for not filling out a census form).

        • Wolf Richter says:


          Non-compliance is punishable to the full extent of the law, including but not limited to being compelled to have lunch with Greta Thunberg.

        • MCH says:

          Oh no… the horrors.

          having those young maniacal eyes staring into my soul while vindictively telling me that our generation has stolen her youth.

          I give up, I’ll do whatever these guys want. I’ll even support NIRP. In fact, forget NIRP, just take my money…

      • BuySome says:

        Please explain…at what point did “compulsory” response get extended to use of telephones and computers. Are these not still Federally considered as luxury items? In what world can you force a citizen to purchase or use a luxury? [Car insurance is not a related example.]

  9. WES says:

    I think Wolfe is saying we won’t see a peak in recorded unemployment numbers for a month or two.

    Obviously the cat is still in flight!

    That means no dead cat bounce until the cat hits either the ceiling or floor!

  10. The Rage says:

    Thanks to the multitude of retirements , household employment employment survey gets a +200000 a month while the LFPR drops, reducing structural unemployment. This is why the Useries dropped so low despite the modest growth above the trend rate of 1.7%. The mid-60’s to mid-90’s was the opposite creating distorted high unemployment.

    • Javert Chip says:

      Say what?


      o LPFR?
      o “Usreies” which, apparently have dropped?
      o What 1.7% trend rate?

      Estimated information density of what you wrote: somewhat low.

      • NJGeezer says:

        i’m with you Chip, although i believe that Useries is U-series, e.g. U3, U6 unemployment numbers

  11. Kasadour says:

    Yesterday the Seattle Times reported that hundreds of $millions have been stolen from Washington State’s Employment Security Dept’s unemployment insurance fund by means of a Nigerian fraud scheme. I wonder how much this distorts the unemployment figures coming out of Washington. One can further assume similar fraud is being perpetrated on other, ahem, western states, as hundreds of millions of dollars would really show up in reporting beyond any margin of error.

    • Tim says:

      Yeah, simple blunder by WSES..

      No one is going to have time come after for whoever for that, I suspect, within the framework of crap that’s coming.

      Out-of-the-back-door-of-the-firm-with-the-gold is probably happening big style right now.

      ‘individuals’ running for the door hoping that the general sh*tstorm will cover their tracks.

      Honestly, wouldn’t bet on all of them being caught.

    • roddy6667 says:

      I see that all those laptops sent to students in Nigeria are being put to good use. :)

    • WES says:


      I suspect the people scamming Washington State sent the money to Nigeria to be cleaned in a Nigerian laundry mat so it can be sent back stateside.

      An exact copy of Congress’s Ukraine laundry mat.

      • Kasadour says:

        Funny-strange, but ha ha in a comical sense. I suspected a similar scenario. We think alike because of our great minds.

    • elysianfield says:

      “Yesterday the Seattle Times reported that hundreds of $millions have been stolen from Washington State’s Employment Security Dept’s unemployment insurance fund by means of a Nigerian fraud scheme”

      Fools! Idiots! They should have been dealing with the Nigerian Prince that I have been in contact with. Reliable, always answers my questions, always cashes my checks on time…and I get a receipt!

  12. Seems like the only answer for these jobless people is go to work for a Wall St company. Then the bailouts trickle down.

  13. David Hall says:

    Florida’s unemployment claims system crashed. They were working through a backlog of new claims in April. Some people sued. A judge dismissed the case.

    A South Florida Sun Sentinel headline from May 21:

    223,927 file new unemployment claims in Florida; Trump resort permanently cuts furloughed workers

  14. MCH says:


    Thanks for actually putting Out these numbers, I think the monthly actually gives a better look at what’s really going on in the economy. Not surprisingly, no this is showing up on places like CNBC, Fox business, Etc. Thanks for not letting facts be ignored like they are irrelevant.

    One curiosity, I look at the monthly number and Hawaii as expected is right up there near the top. But oddly, when I look at the weeklies you put out, Hawaii isn’t there. I am wondering if this is just because of the fact the weekly are in actual number of people claiming unemployment, whereas the monthly is expressed in percentages.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Hawaii is 17.8% on the weekly data and Nevada, the top, is 23.5% on the weekly data. So Hawaii is relatively high on the list but not at the top of the list. The weekly data is closer to real time, but in terms of accuracy and inclusiveness, the monthly figures are likely a little better. These changes in employment came so quickly that no methods is adequate in capturing them. But each method gives its own insights.

  15. George W says:

    McDonald’s has issued guidelines to take the “Fast” out of fast food. at least for sit down, dine-in type patrons.

    Their “Dine In Re-opening Playbook” reads like it was written by a bureaucrat, not by an entrepreneur.

    McDonald’s restaurants will need to hire more employees to comply with these new guidelines. Franchises will need to carry the new costs and the burden of lost sales.

    Smaller competing establishments likely will not be able to adopt similar practices and will need to go back to the “wild west” form of fast food or close down permanently.

    To me, McDonald’s corporate response further muddies the water as to what the post Coronavirus America will look like.

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