America is not yet back to its pre-pandemic normal, but some states are already doing better economically than they were before Covid, according to the Back-to-Normal Index created by CNN and Moody’s Analytics.
South Dakota, Florida, Rhode Island, Nebraska and Idaho are all thriving, operating at or above where their economies were in early March 2020 before the pandemic forced businesses to shutter and workers and students to stay home.
The index is composed of a basket of economic indicators that includes unemployment rates, claims for jobless benefits, consumer spending and consumer behavior.
South Dakota’s economy is at 106% of its pre-pandemic strength, according to the index, while Florida’s economy is at 101%. The other three states are operating at 100% of pre-Covid level.
Nebraska and South Dakota also have the lowest unemployment rates in the country at 2.8% as of April compared to the nation-wide rate of 6.1%. Although New Hampshire and Utah are also at 2.8% for joblessness, their performances on the back-to-normal index are lower, at 95% and 94% respectively.
New York -— the pandemic’s epicenter in the early months of the outbreak — has the furthest to go to get back to normal. The state is operating at only 79% of its pre-pandemic level, and its April unemployment rate was the third highest in the nation at 8.2%, behind only Hawaii and California.
The data show, once again, how uneven the recovery is.
The labor market is recovering at different paces, too. States with larger service industries, or those more reliant on tourism, are having a harder time bouncing back compared with others.
And although the nation’s overall economy is nearly back to its pre-pandemic strength, we might be in for a tough homestretch: consumers are once again spending money, but prices are rising everywhere; Millions of workers are unemployed but businesses can’t find qualified staff; Day cares and schools are not yet back to full capacity, making it hard for parents to resume their pre-Covid work lives.
However most economists predict that the summer will boost the US economy further as more pandemic restrictions are eased.