Each Thursday morning, promptly at 8:30 am eastern time, the US Department of Labor dutifully reports the latest numbers on initial and continuing claims for unemployment.
This is an eagerly anticipated report coming out of Washington. As it is the best measure of the direction of the labor markets, a key component of the economy.
Labor has also been a critical focus of the real hardship imposed by the Covid Pandemic. What we are experiencing now, is no less than the greatest crisis for labor since the Great Depression of nearly a century ago.
Within a month of the Corona Virus exposure here in the US, over 20 million lost their jobs. As entire industries such as the airlines, cruise ships, movie theaters, shopping malls, and many many others, sent workers home in droves.
And the initial effect on the economy was devastating.
But here were are, exactly a year later, and for some states, those layoffs continue. Workers are still at home, unable to return to their jobs.
While other states are approaching full employment levels. With pre-pandemic employment.
A clear picture has emerged of the geography of employment, and the geography of unemployment.
The epicenter of the unemployed lies in Albany, Sacramento, Harrisburg, and Lansing. These are the capitals wherein rule Governors have declared that their states must lock down their economies.
Governors named: Cuomo, Newsom, Wolfe, and Whitmer. All of whom have major portions of their businesses closed from the threat of the Pandemic.
But you have to catch this picture right now because through a quirk of unemployment accounting, this picture will very shortly change. In fact this month.
You see the Department of Labor, and hence all of the states mentioned, only count someone as unemployed while they are receiving unemployment insurance. And after a year, unemployment insurance ceases.
So even though they are not working, they are no longer considered “unemployed.”CNBC estimates that those who have “fallen through the cracks” this way is at least 3 plus million. Nearly doubling the 4 plus million who are currently on the unemployed roles.
And, of course, it follows that this data “quirk” will most affect those states with the highest unemployment. States like New York, Pennsylvania, Californian, and Michigan.Each of which had an unemployment rate in January, before workers began to drop off of between 6 and 9%.That's nearly double the unemployment rate of open states, like South Dakota, Utah, and Florida.
Florida is a particularly pertinent example. Florida has remained open during the entire pandemic, and currently has an unemployment rate below 5%. That's about half of California's Unemployment Rate.
And yet Florida has a death rate from Covid that's actually below locked-down California.
That's right Florida, with the third-largest retirement population, the group most at risk from Covid has a death rate BELOW California.
California, the state with the fifth-youngest population, the group least likely to die from the disease.
What a curious turn of events.