Even as the  federal government fights over $900 billion in new spending related to COVID-19, North Carolina’s surprisingly strong financial position, a result of past prudence and continued standoffs on spending, has prompted calls for more state spending despite remaining uncertainty on future budgets.

Last month we introduced the COVID Misery Index to measure the twin effects on health and jobs from society’s fight with the coronavirus. Many have indeed found the index to be a useful tool. It’s such a useful tool that researchers at Texas A&M independently developed a similar index using the average unemployment rate for the jobs measure. Unemployment claims could provide a timelier picture of the economic impact than the net job loss used here, but death data reporting practices could have more impact on variations over a shorter period. It is also interesting to compare COVID Misery Index scores with states’ restrictions by executive order.

In October, the state had the lowest overall combined misery score in the region, but has lost ground to Tennessee, which again reclaimed jobs at a faster rate in November. North Carolina remains near Virginia as one of the lowest rates of lives lost and one of the highest rates of jobs lost in the region. As COVID has taken more lives around the country, the three states have separated themselves from the national average, Virginia and North Carolina by keeping deaths low and Tennessee by gaining more jobs than it had in February.

Among the ten most populous states, North Carolina has the fifth highest rate of jobs lost and the second lowest rate of lives lost. Overall, it again has the second lowest combined index score to Ohio, though the difference is just a fraction of a point in November.

Ten Best States and Index Scores

Alaska                 9.1
Utah               19.8
Oregon               22.1
Maine               24.3
Vermont               27.3
Wyoming               29.6
Oklahoma               34.3
Idaho               36.1
Kansas               37.0
Nebraska               37.7


Ten Worst States and Index Scores

New Jersey             150.8
Massachusetts             140.4
New York             118.9
Connecticut             116.5
Rhode Island             109.4
Louisiana             103.1
Illinois               92.0
North Dakota               91.4
Mississippi               86.9
Iowa               79.9