Which States Have the Highest and Lowest Unemployment Rates?


The BLS updated unemployment levels at the state level today. Let's take a look at states doing well and poorly.

State Unemployment Levels for December 2020

Please consider the BLS report on State Unemployment Levels for December 2020.

Key Points

  • In December 2020, nonfarm payroll employment increased in 15 states, decreased in 11 states, and was  essentially unchanged in 24 states and the District of Columbia. 
  • Hawaii and Nevada had the highest unemployment rates in December, 9.3 percent and 9.2 percent,  respectively. Nebraska and South Dakota had the lowest rates, 3.0 percent each. 
  • 25 states had jobless rates lower than the U.S. figure of 6.7 percent, 10 states and the District of Columbia had higher rates, and 15 states had rates that were not appreciably different from that of the nation. 
  • Over the year, nonfarm payroll employment decreased in 48 states and the District of Columbia and was essentially unchanged in 2 states. 
  • The largest job declines occurred in California (-1,410,000), New  York (-1,020,700), and Michigan (-486,800). The largest percentage declines occurred in Hawaii (-13.8 percent), Michigan (-10.9 percent), and New York (-10.4 percent). 

Lowest Unemployment Rates December 2020

  1. South Dakota: 3.0
  2. Nebraska: 3.0%
  3. Iowa: 3.1%
  4. Vermont: 3.1%
  5. Utah: 3.6%
  6. Kansas: 3.8%
  7. Alabama: 3.9%
  8. New Hampshire: 4.0%

The above states all had unemployment rates 4.0% or below.

Highest Unemployment Rates December 2020

  1. Hawaii: 9.3%
  2. Nevada: 9.2%
  3. California: 9.0%
  4. Colorado: 8.4%
  5. New Mexico: 8.2%
  6. New York: 8.2%
  7. Rhode Island: 8.1%
  8. Connecticut: 8.0%
  9. District of Columbia: 7.9%
  10. Illinois: 7.6%

Historical Chart

Unemployment Rates by State 2020-12 Historical

Rural farm states like Nebraska, South Dakota, and Iowa have very stable employment rates vs industrial states, strong public union states, and states that depend on tourism like Hawaii and Nevada.


Comments (33)
No. 1-12

Texas has roughly 14X more people in the adult workforce than South Dakota has people.

Cali is more like 20X. Got to keep it in perspective.


This is from back in Nov. Still seems to apply, except for perhaps NV, which is heavily dependent on travel & tourism.

Midwestern states with few virus rules have low unemployment
November 1, 2020

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Five of the six states with the nation’s lowest unemployment rates are in the Midwest, have Republican governors and have almost no restrictions intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus.


OT.....anybody else hearing about both Greece and Sweden making the ___-exit threats again, citing Brexit as a fine example of how to leave the Eurozone?


This is certainly related to the topic indirectly. I don’t know if you ever checked out the article I mentioned in the WSJ “Regeneron’s Antibody Miracle for COVID-19” Anyway you cannot receive this monoclonal antibody infusion if you have already gotten the vaccine. Also to receive it you have to had a positive test with at least some of the symptoms. So locally the nurse in charge of this operation that’s been set up in the hospital parking lot is saying this is the best kept secret people are just finding out about. If out of line here Mish please delete.


Percentages are misleading. Look at raw numbers of employed, incomes and GDP. Some of the states with low unemployment should have zero unemployment.


You would be able to lower the unemployment rate in every state if you could get 100% of the population to realize that there is a pandemic going on, and to take the appropriate recommended precautions. Infection rates would drop, and people could get back to work. Apparently, for some, it is more fun to pretend there is no pandemic, refuse to follow precautions, keep the pandemic going, and complain about the unemployment that the "government is causing".


Hawaii and Nevada are tourist states. Who is surprised by high unemployment there?


So who is packing their bags to go to the Dakotas or Nebraska?

“Hell I even thought I was dead until I found out I was just in Nebraska.” -Little Bill.


I was diheartened but not surprised when Joe Biden indicated continued support for the Jones Act which hurts both Hawaii and Puerto Rico economically


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