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Analysis: These 10 States Have Seen the Highest Share of their Workforce File for Unemployment Amid COVID-19

Americans have filed nearly 37 million unemployment claims since the beginning of March amid the coronavirus pandemic and corresponding economic fallout. While no state has been spared, the downturn has hit some states particularly hard.

New analysis produced by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce shows that the following 10 states have seen the largest percentage of their workforces file unemployment claims since the beginning of March, using their total February workforce as a baseline.

Note: This analysis reflects the latest data released Thursday by the Department of Labor and covers the full months of March and April (unemployment claims filed March 1 – May 2).

INTERACTIVE MAP: VIEW ALL STATES

1. Kentucky 

678,911 unemployment claims 

35.3% of the workforce has filed an unemployment claim 

Retail trade, health care, and leisure and accommodation have been some of the hardest hit industries when it comes to job losses. In Kentucky, these jobs combined make up 31 percent of the workforce. These jobs will be slow to come back as social distancing requirements remain in place.  

2. Georgia 

1,607,607 unemployment claims 

34.8% of the workforce has filed an unemployment claim 

Georgia’s workforce is concentrated in retail trade and leisure and hospitality. Combined they make up more than 31 percent of Georgia’s workforce. These industries have experienced heavy job losses. Georgia is among the first states to reopen, so the hope is jobs in these hard-hit industries will come back sooner rather than later.  

3. Hawaii 

212,295 unemployment claims 

32.2% of the workforce has filed an unemployment claim 

The story in Hawaii is straightforward. The travel industry has been all but halted and Hawaii’s job market is heavily concentrated in accommodation. More than 19 percent of Hawaiians work in the industry. When adding in retail workers and those working in education and health services, more than half of Hawaii’s workers are in hard-hit industries. The tourism-related jobs will come back once people are confident about traveling again. 

4. Rhode Island 

156,457 unemployment claims 

31.4% of the workforce has filed an unemployment claim 

Just under 50 percent of Rhode Island workers work in either retail, education and health services, or leisure and accommodation. These industries are suffering badly in because of the economic shutdown. They will start to come back once people are confident about shopping and traveling again, and health care and education return to more-normal routines. 

5. Michigan 

1,339,700 unemployment claims 

30.4% of the workforce has filed an unemployment claim 

The auto industry was one of the first to stop operations and that has thrust Michigan to the top of the jobs lost list ever since. Manufacturing companies employ 14 percent of Michigan workers. When the auto companies and other manufacturers go back to work, unemployment in Michigan will ease.  

6. Nevada 

421,418 unemployment claims 

29.7% of the workforce has filed an unemployment claim 

Like in Hawaii, the story is simple in Nevada. Leisure and hospitality businesses employ 25 percent of workers there, even more than in Hawaii. With Las Vegas and other tourist centers shuttered, these workers are unemployed. They will go back to work when tourism resumes. 

7. Pennsylvania 

1,739,237 unemployment claims 

28.8% of the workforce has filed an unemployment claim 

In Pennsylvania, more than 21 percent of workers are in either the health or education services field. Another 18 percent of Pennsylvania workers are in retail. Those industries are hard hit. The education and health workers should go back to work once lockdowns end. Retail will rebound slower as social distancing persists and people are weary of returning to stores.  

8. Louisiana 

563,070 unemployment claims 

28.4% of the workforce has filed an unemployment claim 

Almost half of Louisianans (more than 47 percent) are employed in either retail, health and education services, and leisure and hospitality. These industries have the most job losses.  

9. Washington 

974,517 unemployment claims 

28% of the workforce has filed an unemployment claim 

Almost 43 percent of Washingtonians work in retail, health and education services, and leisure and hospitality. These industries have the most job losses. Washington was the first state COVID-19 hit hard and that has taken a toll on the economy.  

10. Alaska 

81,385 unemployment claims 

25.6% of the workforce has filed an unemployment claim 

Just under 47 percent of workers in Alaska are employed in retail, health and education services, and leisure and hospitality. These industries have the most job losses. Additionally, the government employs another 25 percent of workers there, mostly at the local level. These workers have also been hit hard as local government budgets have been pinched.  

INTERACTIVE MAP: VIEW ALL STATES

Related: A Backgrounder on Unemployment Insurance under the CARES Act

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