The unemployment rate dropped another half percentage point nationwide to 7.9% in September as the economy added 661,000 jobs — less than half of the job growth reported in August. A report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the employment situation also improved in most states, with 30 each recording lower unemployment rates and higher job numbers. But several states continue to face economic difficulties, and total employment is still down in 48 states compared to a year ago.
Nebraska reported the lowest unemployment rate in September at 3.5%, while New Jersey marked the biggest drop in the unemployment rate — from 11.1% to 6.7% — compared to August. The unemployment rate declined by more than two percentage points in New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Missouri.
But unemployment remained almost unchanged in 12 states and Washington, DC and increased in eight. Hawaii reported both the largest increase and the highest total unemployment rate in September, up 2.1 percentage points to reach a rate of 15.1%. The unemployment rate also increased by at least one percentage point in Idaho, Texas, and Alabama. Although the unemployment rate in Nevada was down compared to last month, from 13.3% to 12.6%, it was still the second-highest rate after Hawaii.
New Jersey also reported the largest percent increase in employment in September, up 1.6% compared to August. New York and Wyoming had the second-largest increases at 1.3% each. Just three states — Indiana, Kansas, and Hawaii — had significant drops in employment between August and September.
Only Utah and Idaho reported job numbers close to those from September of last year. Jobs are down 18.4% in Hawaii from last year, the largest percent decrease of any state, followed by 11.2% in New York and 9.6% in Michigan and Vermont.
Much of the situation in Hawaii is related to the damage done by declining tourism and travel. Between August and September, leisure and hospitality accounted for the largest percent increase in employment of any industry in 36 states, growing by as much as 12.2% in Vermont and 8% in New Hampshire. Leisure and hospitality jobs in Hawaii declined by 7.1% in the same period, faring the worst of any industry statewide. Between this September and last, the Hawaiian leisure and hospitality sector lost around 73,000 jobs — or about one job for every 20 Hawaiians, the highest per capita decline in leisure and hospitality jobs of any state.
As the weather shifts in much of the country over the coming months, employment will remain an important indicator of how different states and industries, including leisure and hospitality, are coping with the economic challenges of COVID-19. Read more about how the country is faring against the pandemic at the COVID-19 Impact and Recovery Hub.
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