Massachusetts no longer has the country’s highest unemployment rate.
The state’s unemployment rate in August was tied for seventh highest at 11.3 percent, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Labor released Friday.
Some of the hardest-hit industries in Massachusetts during the pandemic were retail and hospitality, James Sutherland, the director of policy and research at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, said. Workers in health care and education were not as impacted in terms of job loss.
In July, the Massachusetts unemployment rate was the highest in the nation at 16.2 percent. The 4.9 percentage-point decrease in August was the county’s largest drop.
As the Commonwealth reopens, Sutherland said state or municipal reopening guidelines can help encourage employers to begin rehiring by demonstrating to businesses when and how to do so safely.
“That’s going to be a foremost concern for employers before they bring anyone back, is to make sure that it’s being done safely,” Sutherland said. “One way for government to help with that is to provide some guidance around that, which they’ve been doing.”
The Chamber has partnered with other organizations across the state to provide free financial assistance resources and guidance to small businesses in an initiative called Small Business Strong, Sutherland said.
Massachusetts added 51,600 jobs between July and August, tying for first place in producing the largest unemployment decrease in the country during this period.
Nationwide, 1.4 million jobs were created in August, according to a statement by U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia, with the unemployment rate dropping to 8.4 percent.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’s report also showed higher unemployment rates among Black and Hispanic people nationwide. JD Chesloff, executive director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, said unemployment during the pandemic may worsen equity gaps.
“A lot of people who have the ability and flexibility to work remotely are generally white-collar, generally suburban,” Chesloff said. “If you just think of who the people are who are unemployed … it’s the lower-wage worker, people of color, and I think that’s a pretty devastating long-term impact that we’re all going to have to figure out.”
The country will face economic challenges as long as there isn’t a COVID-19 vaccine, Sutherland added. Until then, child care remains a major concern for working parents while many schools are operating remotely.
Chesloff said this is one issue employers who are looking to support remote employees are hoping to address.
“Employers, historically, have subsidized transportation. If employees aren’t commuting, there’s no value to that,” Chesloff said. “So, how do you replace that? For example, subsidized child care costs.”
Some employers have also been offering mental health support during the pandemic, Chesloff said, for those who feel isolated and anxious, or who are feeling the increased pressure of working while tending to a family.