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July 17, 2020

Mass. has worst unemployment rate in the U.S., at 17.4%

Photo | Grant Welker A vacant site on Pleasant Street in downtown Worcester is available on the market at a time when the recession has given communities a major hit.

Massachusetts has, at least for now, ridden out the worst of the coronavirus pandemic — but it hasn't escaped the virus's economic toll.

The state's unemployment rate in June rose to 17.4%, the worst in the nation, according to figures released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That sets a new unemployment record for the state since such record-keeping began.

The rate — up from 14.7% in May — comes as new unemployment claims have been slowly trending downward, and may reflect a higher rate of out-of-work residents in Massachusetts counting as unemployed compared to other states. National reports have indicated wait times of weeks in some states for residents' unemployment claims to be processed.

Image | WBJ Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
State unemployment rates for June

In fact, the Massachusetts unemployment rate worsened despite 83,700 more residents counting as employed in June compared to a month earlier, according to federal data. That increase of 2.7% was somewhat on the lower end nationally but part of a trend of workers generally heading back to work in June, at least before virus numbers began rising significantly again through the end of the month and into July.

Nonetheless, Massachusetts has had more than 1.1 million new unemployment claims since mid-March, when the pandemic began hitting the state quickly and many businesses were forced to shut or continue operations remotely. The state's unemployment rate in June 2019 was 2.9%. The number of employed Massachusetts residents has fallen by 529,800, or 14.4%, since then.

Having so many Massachusetts residents out of work may soon have health consequences, as well. The advocacy group Families USA estimates 8% of Massachusetts adults now lack health care because they've lost their jobs. The rate in 2018 was 4%, according to the group. According to the U.S. Census, the rate was 2.8%, easily the best in the country.

Unemployment in Central Massachusetts remained roughly flat at 14.7% in May, with local June data not yet available. Nearly 95,000 residents in the area were out of work in May, nearly 5,000 more people than were counted a month prior.

The national unemployment rate in June was 11.1%.

Kentucky claimed the best U.S. unemployment rate in June at 4.3%, followed by Utah at 5.1% and Idaho at 5.6%. Following Massachusetts at the other end of the spectrum were New Jersey at 16.6%, New York at 15.7% and Nevada at 15.0%.

The June unemployment rates, which are not seasonally adjusted, are considered preliminary, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.

Nationally, 1.3 million new unemployment claims filed were last week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In total, the country has roughly 52.1 million unemployment claims filed since the beginning of the pandemic. 

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July 17, 2020

Thank you Governor Baker for your awesome leadership during this trying time. See what you accomplished...We are unemployment! Great work...well, not really.

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