While the nation has recovered its overall job losses from the pandemic, a new report finds that 31 states and the District of Columbia still have fewer jobs than in 2019.
Analyzing the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Pew Stateline reported that New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania lost the most jobs between February 2020 and last month. Florida, Texas and North Carolina gained the most over the same period.
Pew found that New York state is down 327,800 jobs, with remote work hurting shops and other businesses that once catered to commuters. Although the U.S. recovered 25 million jobs lost during the pandemic, a state budget report last month found that New York might not see pre-pandemic employment levels until 2026.
According to Beacon Hill Staffing Group, a Boston-based employment agency, the New York hospitality market is slowly recovering as customers pack restaurants. But there are fewer restaurants than before the pandemic.
“Workers relocating has certainly contributed to the labor shortage in some states,” John Tarbox, managing director for Beacon Hill Legal, told The Washington Times. “The ability to work remotely allowed people to move to areas where the weather was possibly better, where they could get a bigger house and where the cost of living overall was cheaper.”
Ohio has 124,200 fewer jobs than before the pandemic, with Pew reporting that “thousands of manufacturing and hospitality jobs” have vanished from the Midwest.
“There are almost 100,000 fewer Ohioans in the workforce as compared to before the pandemic,” said Rea S. Hederman Jr., executive director of the Economic Research Center at the Buckeye Institute in Columbus, Ohio. “This has made it difficult for some businesses to fully restore operations, and as a consequence, they have reduced operating hours or closed some operations.”
Following New York and Ohio, Pennsylvania lost the third-most jobs in the nation. The Keystone State remains 111,300 jobs short of what it had in February 2020.
Business owner Michael Austin, a former chief economic adviser to two Kansas governors, said strict lockdown policies drove many workers to relocate from the Midwest and Northeast to lockdown-light states.
“A tragic pandemic experiment has created a gilded veneer of national job growth,” said Mr. Austin, an economist with the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Project 21. “Peek under the surface, and you’ll see that states that avoided pandemic lockdowns down are now pulling the nation out of its economic doldrums.”
Pew Stateline’s report, released last Wednesday, said that the “jobs picture is brighter in parts of the South and West, where some states are benefitting from an influx of new residents.”
Leading the nation, Texas has 563,900 more jobs than it did before the pandemic. After Texas, Florida added 371,900 jobs and North Carolina added 180,900.
Jeremy T. Redfern, deputy press secretary for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, noted that Florida gained more jobs than New York lost in the Pew Stateline report.
“Over the last two years, Gov. DeSantis focused on lifting people up instead of locking people down,” Mr. Redfern said in an email. “Governor DeSantis protected working families and individual liberties while resisting the calls from the media and the experts to shutter businesses and keep children out of school.”
Pew said the warehousing and transportation industry added the most jobs as more Americans 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.
Over the same period, the nation lost 820,000 leisure and hospitality jobs. The loss of hotel and restaurant workers was the sharpest jobs decline 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, a 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 see that many jobs in small businesses and sectors like construction and mid-size manufacturing are lost forever due to the change in spending habits and elevated inflation,” Mr. Lacalle said in an email.
According to analysts, most of the new jobs are worse than the old ones, even in states that have recovered their numbers.
Exempted as “essential” from government shutdowns of most businesses during the pandemic, corporate giants like Amazon and Walmart have added thousands of low-wage jobs as small businesses struggle with inflationary cutbacks.
“The trend looks to be a shift from productive jobs with wage and productivity growth to delivery of products produced outside the U.S.,” said Sam Kain, a finance professor at Walsh College in Michigan. “A vast transfer of wealth from producers to consumers will result in higher prices and shortages, as can be seen in empty shelves and huge inflation in fuel and groceries.”
As consumer prices remain high, Pew’s report found a correlation between population changes and job growth in most states.
From April 2020 to July 2021, U.S. Census Bureau estimates show the Northeast lost almost 450,000 people and the Midwest lost 144,000. During the same period, the South gained almost 960,000 and the West added about 79,000.
Sean Higgins, a research associate at the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, said people are moving to where they can afford it.
“People are moving to places where the cost of living is cheaper and it’s warmer,” Mr. Higgins said. “People have always tried to do that when they can, but it is easier for them now.”