Battleground States Showed Mixed Progress in August Joblessness

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Arizona’s unemployment rate fell 4.8 percentage points from the prior month to 5.9% and Florida’s dropped 4 points to 7.4%, according to Labor Department figures Friday on state employment. Meanwhile, Michigan’s rate was unchanged at 8.7%, Minnesota’s dropped by 0.2 point to 7.4% and Nevada’s rate declined 1 point to 13.2%, the highest in the country.

The national unemployment rate dropped in August to 8.4% from 10.2%, the monthly jobs report showed earlier this month.

The latest data add further detail to the 1.37 million jobs added in August and underscore the varying speeds at which state economies have been able to recover from massive — and uneven — job losses.

Before the pandemic, President Donald Trump emphasized the solid job gains seen under his presidency, with the unemployment rate matching a 50-year low in February. Covid-19 and the ensuing lockdowns upended that growth, spurring millions of job losses. In the swing states that may ultimately decide the Nov. 3 election, jobs — or the lack of them — could very well play into whether voters support Trump or Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

Nationally, 40 U.S. states added jobs in August, while employment was essentially unchanged in the remaining 10 states. The biggest month-over-month payroll increases were in New Jersey, New York and Virginia at 1.8%, while North Carolina reported a 0.4% increase.

Ten states still have unemployment rates above 10%, with Nevada’s 13.2% followed by Rhode Island, New York and Hawaii.

Nationally, the labor market is broadly showing signs of improvement, but payrolls remained about 11.5 million below pre-pandemic levels in August, pointing to a long recovery ahead that is dependent on state’s efforts to get the virus under control.

Permanent business closures also play a role in which states will recover fastest. Nationally, over 97,000 small businesses have shut for good since March 1, according to data from Yelp (NYSE:YELP) Inc. Among the battleground states, Arizona, Nevada and Texas have the most combined permanent and temporary closures per 1,000 businesses, Yelp showed.

(Updates to include more details from release.)

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