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New COVID Misery Index Combines Deaths and Jobs Lost

For months now, the John Locke Foundation’s Jon Sanders has been putting out a weekly “NC Threat-Free Index” to put COVID-19 numbers into context. This week, the Foundation’s Joe Coletti published a new index, the Covid Misery Index. Coletti describes it:

“How are states doing?” That is the point of the Covid Misery Index, which measures each state on jobs lost per million state residents since February and the number of Covid-related deaths per million state residents. Just as the misery index of the 1970s added inflation and unemployment, the Covid misery index adds the rate of lives lost and the rate of jobs lost…

Lower numbers in this index represent less misery, and for that reason are better than higher numbers. If a state has more people working now than in February, that part of the index would be negative (which would be good). If those job gains offset the relative increase in deaths, the overall misery index could be zero or negative.

Below are interactive graphics to illustrate the index.

Coletti describes where North Carolina falls on the index:

North Carolina’s death rate is among the lowest for Southern states, on par with Virginia’s, and also below the national average. North Carolina’s job losses have exceeded the national average, about even with Illinois and Pennsylvania. Still, the state has lost fewer jobs as a share of population than Virginia or Florida. Among neighboring states, North Carolina has more balanced pain, with overall misery about the same as Tennessee, which has more deaths but fewer job losses.

Among the nine states with populations greater than 10 million people, North Carolina is second to Ohio for lowest combined misery. The slow increase in deaths and relative gains in employment have helped the state move from 19th most miserable in April and May to 19th least miserable in October. North Carolina’s relative improvement in the index, however, is due in large part to other states suffering more in the fall. Deaths in North Carolina have accelerated since August, its best month on the combined index, and job gains have slowed.

Read the full research brief here. Ind the latest NC Threat-Free index here.

Brenee Goforth / Marketing and Communications Associate

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