This is our third iteration of the Covid Misery Index, with previous looks in October and November. The path of jobs recovery and lives lost continues to defy simple narratives of red states vs blue states, lockdowns vs opening, or even speculation based on tourism. Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York  are still the worst hit states. The second five states are the geographically and politically diverse group of North Dakota, Louisiana, Illinois, South Dakota, and Iowa. The best states for limited impact on jobs and lives lost are Alaska, Utah, Oregon, Maine, and Vermont. Tennessee and Alaska are the only two states that had more people employed in December than they had in February 2020, before the pandemic.

Although some states have had reversals on the jobs front, North Carolina continues to recover, though the pace of recovery was much slower. North Carolina is now 8th lowest on lives lost, 32nd lowest on jobs lost, and 13th lowest overall.

North Carolina at the end of December had the lowest death rate among neighboring states and had recovered more jobs than Virginia had. The state has the best overall score in the region.