Coronavirus and the States: Nearly a Quarter of Workers Lack Jobs in Some States; Midwestern Governors Band Together

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Coronavirus and the States: Nearly a Quarter of Workers Lack Jobs in Some States; Midwestern Governors Band Together
Stateline Apr17
Workers wait in line to get an unemployment form at a Miami-Dade County library this month. Nearly a quarter of the workforce is unemployed in at least six states.
Lynne Sladky/The Associated Press

Read Stateline coverage of the latest state action on coronavirus.

The jobless rate has reached nearly a quarter of the workforce in several states, even with choked application systems delaying unemployment claims in many areas, a Stateline analysis has found.

Michigan, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Kentucky and Nevada all have rates near 25%. The coronavirus crisis hit tourism-dependent economies in Hawaii and Nevada early; blue-collar workforces in Michigan and Pennsylvania have fewer options to work at home.

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The rates are likely to worsen as states work through a backlog of claims. Hawaii expects 230,000 claims — more than a third of its workforce — after clearing up its backlog.

Florida, where the unemployed are lining up for food and protesting the slow application process, expects another 850,000 claims, which would double the Stateline jobless estimate to 17%. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a shakeup at the state agency handling claims.

Connecticut, which implemented emergency computer fixes this week, is working through a logjam of 180,000 claims, which would double its estimate to 20%.

To estimate unemployment rates, Stateline added jobless claims from the four most recent weeks to the number already unemployed before the crisis hit in February.

Midwestern Governors Collaborate on Recovery

Following the lead of Northeastern and Western governors, a bipartisan group of governors from Midwest states formed a coalition to plan how to reopen their regional economy as the coronavirus crisis eases.

Democratic Govs. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Tony Evers of Wisconsin, Tim Walz of Minnesota, J.B. Pritzker of Illinois and Andy Beshear of Kentucky; and Republican Govs. Mike DeWine of Ohio and Eric Holcomb of Indiana jointly announced they will coordinate.

“We recognize that our economies are all reliant on each other, and we must work together to safely reopen them so hardworking people can get back to work and businesses can get back on their feet,” the governors said in the joint statement.

Earlier, the governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Rhode Island formed a Northeastern group, while the governors of California, Washington and Oregon mounted a similar coordinated campaign for their region.

The announcements all preceded President Donald Trump’s statement late Thursday of guidelines on how to reopen the states. Those guidelines call for states to have a “robust” testing system in place before opening, but do not set out a national testing program, leaving it to the states.

The Midwestern governors stressed that their policy was not one size fits all and that different areas might open at different times.

“Phasing in sectors of our economy will be most effective when we work together as a region. This doesn’t mean our economy will reopen all at once, or that every state will take the same steps at the same time,” the statement said.

The Midwestern governors said they would base reopening on four factors:

  • Sustained control of the rate of new infections and hospitalizations;
  • Enhanced ability to test and trace;
  • Sufficient health care capacity to handle any resurgence;
  • And best practices for social distancing in the workplace.

Stateline staff writer Elaine S. Povich contributed to this report.

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State Action on Coronavirus
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State Action on Coronavirus

Local and state public health officials wield extraordinary powers in emergency situations such as the current coronavirus outbreak. They can close schools and private businesses. They can restrict or shut down mass transit systems. They can cancel concerts, sporting events and political rallies. They can call up the National Guard. They can suspend medical licensing laws and protect doctors from liability claims. And they can quarantine or isolate people who might infect others.