Nationally, U.S. employment recovered to its pre-pandemic level last June. More than a year later, however, one in four states have yet to recover.
Hawaii, which shut down its most important industry during the pandemic, still has 4.1% fewer employees than it did in February of 2020. By contrast, there are 10.4% more employees in the state of Idaho, and 11.6% more in the Boise metro area, than before COVID.
Where have job search conditions improved most since the pandemic?
Of course, employment changes largely reflect migration. They do not directly measure the attractiveness to job seekers and workers of labor market conditions.
Comparing five different state labor market indicators from the Bureau of Labor Statistics today to their 2019 averages produces mixed results. Job openings are higher in 100% of states, unemployment rates better in 74% of states, layoffs lower in 76% of states, quits higher in 62% of states, but monthly hires only higher in half of states than before the pandemic (and lower in the other half).
Measuring labor market improvements since the pandemic as a weighted index of all five indicators, Idaho is closer to the middle of the pack at number 20, partly because it was already doing so well before the pandemic.
“Most improved labor market” awards go to South Dakota, Delaware, New Hampshire, Alabama, and Tennessee. Applying the same methodology, job search conditions have deteriorated most in Washington, New York, Oregon, North Carolina, and Michigan.