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First Cut: March unemployment and payrolls by state show first wave of job losses

Data on state unemployment and payroll for March provide some detail on where the first wave of widespread business closures were deepest.

The report said unemployment rates were higher in 29 states and the District of Columbia, lower in 3 states, and stable in 18. Payrolls were down in 31 states and “essential unchanged in 19 states and the District of Columbia”. This reflects the differences in the household survey which individuals report their employment status and the establishment survey which asks about payrolls during the pay period that includes the second Saturday of the month.

A technical note in the report said, “March data from the establishment and household surveys broadly reflect some of the early effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the labor market. We cannot precisely quantify the effects of the pandemic on state and local job markets in March.” I note that since there was a surge in business closures in the second half of the month, the March data is likely to have missed the worst of the declines. April will see the second wave to hit the labor market and is likely to be deeper.

In any case, unemployment rates in the 10 states with the largest share of the labor market widely reported a jump in unemployment rates that was particularly large in states were COVID-19 outbreaks happened earliest and/or where state authorities were aggressive in imposing social distancing measures. These were mainly along the East and West coasts.

The Employment Situation reported total nonfarm payrolls down 701,000 in March. State data puts well over half that in the 10 largest labor markets by state, with the largest contributions from California (99,500) and Texas (50,900), followed by New York (41,700) and Pennsylvania (40,400).

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