Report shows 31 states and D.C. still have fewer jobs than 2019

While the nation has recovered all of its job losses from the pandemic, a new report finds 31 states and the District of Columbia still have fewer jobs than in 2019.

Pew Stateline analyzed the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and reported that New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania lost the most jobs between February 2020 and last month. Florida, Texas and North Carolina have grown the most over the same period.

Pew found that upstate New York has shed 327,800 jobs, with remote work hurting shops and other businesses that once catered to commuters. Though the U.S. has regained 25 million jobs lost during the pandemic, a state budget report last month found that New York may not reach pre-pandemic employment levels until 2026.

New York’s hospitality market is slowly recovering as customers fill restaurants, according to Beacon Hill Staffing Group, a Boston-based employment agency. But there are fewer restaurants than before the pandemic.

“Worker relocations have certainly contributed to some states’ labor shortages,” John Tarbox, executive director of Beacon Hill Legal, told The Washington Times. “The ability to work remotely allowed people to move to areas where the weather might have been better, where they could get a bigger house, and where the overall cost of living was lower.”

Ohio has 124,200 fewer jobs than before the pandemic, with Pew reporting that “thousands of manufacturing and hospitality jobs” have disappeared from the Midwest.

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“Compared to pre-pandemic numbers, nearly 100,000 Ohioans are less employed,” said Rea S. Hederman Jr., executive director of the Economic Research Center at the Buckeye Institute in Columbus. “This has made it difficult for some businesses to fully recover operations and as a result they have reduced operating hours or closed some operations.”

Pennsylvania lost the third most jobs in the country, after New York and Ohio. Keystone State is still missing 111,300 jobs compared to February 2020.

Business owner Michael Austin, a former chief economic adviser to two Kansas governors, said strict lockdown guidelines have prompted many workers to relocate from the Midwest and Northeast to light-lockdown states.

“A tragic pandemic experiment has created a gilded facade of national job growth,” said Mr. Austin, an economist with the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Project 21. “Look below the surface and you’ll see the states that avoided pandemic lockdowns are now pulling the nation out of its economic doldrums.”

The Pew Stateline report, released Wednesday, says that “the employment picture is brighter in parts of the South and West, where some states are benefiting from an influx of new residents.”

Texas, which leads the nation, has 563,900 more jobs than before the pandemic. After Texas, Florida added 371,900 jobs and North Carolina 180,900.

Jeremy T. Redfern, deputy press secretary for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, noted in the Pew Stateline report that Florida has gained more jobs than New York has lost.

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“Over the past two years, Governor DeSantis has focused on lifting people up instead of locking them up,” Mr. Redfern said in an email. “Governor DeSantis protected working families and individual liberties while defying calls from the media and experts to shut down businesses and keep children out of school.”

According to Pew, the warehousing and transportation industry has created the most jobs as more Americans have shopped online during the pandemic — making it the fastest-growing employer in 15 states.

The nation added 714,000 transportation and warehousing jobs from February 2020 to last month, Pew Stateline found.

During the same period, the nation lost 820,000 leisure and hospitality jobs. The loss of hotel and restaurant workers was the largest job cut for 20 states and the District of Columbia, Pew reported.

In Ohio, the report found 38,200 fewer leisure and hospitality jobs and 17,800 fewer manufacturing jobs than before the pandemic — but 37,300 more transportation and warehousing jobs.

Daniel Lacalle, professor of global economics at IE Business School in Spain, expects some trends to continue even as the economy recovers.

“In most developed economies, we are seeing many jobs in small businesses and sectors such as construction and mid-market manufacturing being lost forever due to changing spending habits and increased inflation,” Mr Lacalle said in an email.

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According to analysts, most new jobs are worse than old ones, even in states that have regained their numbers.

Considered “essentially” exempt from government shutdowns of most businesses during the pandemic, corporate giants like Amazon and Walmart have created thousands of low-wage jobs as small businesses struggle with inflationary cuts.

“The trend appears to be a shift from productive jobs with wage and productivity growth to supplying products that are made outside the US,” said Sam Kain, finance professor at Walsh College in Michigan. “A huge transfer of wealth from producers to consumers will lead to higher prices and shortages, as seen in empty shelves and huge fuel and food inflation.”

As consumer prices remain high, Pew’s report found a correlation between population changes and job growth in most states.

The US Census Bureau estimates that from April 2020 to July 2021, nearly 450,000 people were lost in the Northeast and 144,000 in the Midwest. During the same period, the South gained nearly 960,000 and the West about 79,000.

Sean Higgins, a research fellow at the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, said people are moving to where they can afford to.

“People are moving to places where the cost of living is lower and it’s warmer,” Mr Higgins said. “People have always tried to do that when they can, but now it’s easier for them.”

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