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Is your state’s economy nearing or topping its pre-pandemic level of activity or lagging? See where your state ranks.

Is your state's economy nearing or topping its pre-pandemic level of activity or lagging? See where your state ranks.


Is your state’s economy nearing or topping its pre-pandemic level of activity or lagging? See where your state ranks.

California to set school vaccine mandate for kidsCalifornia has announced it will enact the nation’s first coronavirus vaccine mandate for schoolchildren. Gov. Gavin Newsom says the state aims to have all students in seventh through 12th grades vaccinated by next fall. Parents had mixed reactions. (Oct. 1)APAfter a rough patch marked by a surge in COVID-19 cases, the U.S. economy seems to be firmly back on the road to recovery, with Moody’s Analytics’ back-to-normal index reaching a new pandemic high in October.More evidence came Friday as the Labor Department reported employers added a better-than-expected 531,000 jobs last month.Some states, however, are closer to their pre-crisis levels of activity than others.More rural states with lots of open spaces in the South and West that imposed fewer restrictions have approached or topped their pre-COVID-19 peaks. They’re ahead of more cautious, densely populated states like New York and California.Some of those more conservative states also rely heavily on tourism or the revival of downtown restaurants and shops in bustling urban centers for their economic lifeblood. They’re still struggling to reignite their financial firepower as most professionals continue to work from home either full time or at least a couple of days a week.The dynamics have left states like South Dakota and Idaho near the top of Moody’s back-to-normal rankings and New York and Illinois at the bottom.But some of those more crowded states also boast the highest vaccination rates and were less impacted by the summer COVID-19 surge sparked by the delta variant, says Moody’s economist Matt Colyar.As a result, they’ve made the biggest strides in recent months, narrowing the gap with states that reopened more aggressively.“The vaccine made states more resilient,” Colyar says.The index is made up of a variety of economic gauges, some in nearly real time, that measure how much states have recovered in each category, including OpenTable restaurant reservations; Google Mobility, which tracks where people are moving about, from shops and sports arenas to offices; employment; and hours worked.  Here’s a look at the five states that are closest to, or above, their pre-pandemic benchmarks and the five that have the furthest to go.Top five, in order:South Dakota►3.4% above pre-pandemic economic activity.One of the most geographically dispersed states, South Dakota is home to many ranchers and a large Native American population. State officials never imposed lockdowns or business closures during the depths of the health crisis, and the state became known for the Sturgis motorcycle rally in August that led to massive COVID-19 spikes.Catapulting South Dakota to the top of the rankings: It leads in Google Mobility’s measure of people movements. And the number of hours worked at small businesses is 16.3% above its pre-crisis mark, according to payroll software provider Homebase. The state ranks fifth in employment recovery, with payrolls 2.2% below their pre-COVID-19 level.Rhode Island►1.4% above pre-COVID-19 level.The small state is an outlier among a cluster of densely populated northeastern states that rank low in Moody’s index. It’s No. 2 in OpenTable restaurant reservations and third in hours worked at small businesses.Colyar at least partly credits a high vaccination rate: 71.4% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to The Becker’s Hospital Review.Idaho►0.5% above pre-COVID-19 level.The scenic state in the Rocky Mountains, known for its potato crop, is also among the most sparsely populated and doesn’t depend on resuscitating lively downtown districts.  It’s already 1.5% above its pre-crisis employment, placing it second in that category, and tenth in Google Mobility.Nevada►0.2% above pre-COVID-19 level.The gambling and entertainment mecca was hammered early in the crisis, putting it in the bottom three or four states, but has made a furious comeback as a result of the reopening economy, Colyar says.Its high ranking largely can be traced to its lead in OpenTable restaurant reservations, which are 41% above their pre-crisis level.Connecticut►0.7% below pre-COVID-19 level.The telecommuting movement has given a big boost to the state as New York office workers who live in Connecticut have worked from home and patronized local restaurants and shops. It’s No. 2 in restaurant.The bottom five statesNew York►14.4% below pre-pandemic level.New York faces a more arduous comeback because Manhattan was such a vibrant center for office workers, domestic and international tourists, and business travelers, Colyar says.It ranks near the bottom of states in employment recovery, nearly 9% below its pre-crisis mark, and it’s online restaurant reservations are more than a third short of their prior level.But the state has made up significant ground since July, when it was 19.5% below its pre-pandemic status, a pickup of about 5 percentage points. By contrast, the nation has gained 2.3 percentage points in that period.Illinois►12.5% below pre-pandemic levelIllinois looks a lot like New York, with a slow comeback in Chicago dragging down the state’s ranking as office workers and business travelers are still hesitant to return in large numbers..The state ranks 37th in Google Mobility, 35th in restaurant reservations and 36th in employment. Like New York, it has made a notable advance since July.Louisiana►12.1% below pre-pandemic level.The state was in the middle of the pack until Hurricane Ida shut down businesses, including oil refineries, in late August. The state was just 7.3% below its pre-crisis mark in July and 21.1% off by September. It’s still recovering, Colyar says.Hawaii►12.1% below pre-pandemic level.The state was among the hardest hit early in the crisis because it relies so heavily on tourism but it has improved substantially since last year. Still, it recently was among the few states to reinstate capacity constraints due to the delta variant.California►10.1% below pre-pandemic level.Cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles have been held back by COVID-19 fears and the remote work movement. The state also has ordered people to wear masks while indoors and show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test in some circumstances. It has made significant gains since early in the year.

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