Red states, on the whole, recorded the lowest rates of unemployment in the United States in August, although blue states led the way in terms of the sharpest reduction in their rates of unemployment over the past year, new government data shows.
The top seven states with the lowest unemployment rates in August were Alabama (3.1 percent), Idaho (2.9 percent), Nebraska (2.2 percent), New Hampshire (3.0 percent), South Dakota (2.9 percent), Utah (2.6 percent), and Vermont (3.0 percent), according to a Sept. 17 release of state-level unemployment data by the Commerce Department.
With the exception of Vermont, which has a Democrat-controlled state House and Senate and a GOP governor, all have Republican trifectas, meaning Republicans hold the governorship, a majority in the state Senate, and a majority in the state House.
“More than twice as many GOP-led states are below the national unemployment rate average than Democrat-led states. The consistent, top performance of Republican-led states is no coincidence,” the Republican Governors Association (RGA) wrote in a tweet, parsing the data according to the number of states above and below the 5.2 percent national unemployment rate.
The seven states with the highest unemployment rates in August were Hawaii (7.0 percent), California (7.5 percent), Connecticut (7.2 percent), Illinois (7.0 percent), New Mexico (7.2 percent), New Jersey (7.2 percent), and New York (7.4 percent). All seven have Democrat trifectas.
Blue states, meanwhile, led the way in the sharpest declines in the unemployment rate over the 12 months through August, with the top seven all Democrat-led. California’s unemployment rate over the past year fell 4.8 percentage points, Hawaii’s dropped 7.1 percentage points, Illinois’ fell 4.1 percentage points, Massachusetts’ dropped 4.3 percentage points, Nevada’s and Rhode Island’s both declined 6.8 percentage points, and New York’s fell 4.3 percentage points.
Base effects are a likely explanation for why the over-the-year rebound in blue state employment was so pronounced. Blue states tend to be more reliant on service industries, especially ones related to travel, leisure, and hospitality, which were hit by the pandemic disproportionately hard, driving up joblessness more sharply than in red states, where manufacturing and agriculture play a bigger role.
By Tom Ozimek