Issues & Insights
Gerd Altmann CC0 Public Domain

Blue States’ COVID Restrictions Are Killing Jobs, But Not The Virus

I&I Editorial

We have long suspected that the left would use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to take greater control over people’s lives, whether or not it helped fight the disease. The evidence appears to support this.

Wallethub has been ranking states based on their COVID-19 restrictions – things such as mask mandates, limits on travel and gatherings, school closings, liability protections, work-at-home requirements.

The nearby table lists the 10 states with the most and least restrictions in place as of Jan. 25.

Notice anything? We did, when we looked at these states through the prism of their local politics.

Of the 10 that are imposing the most restrictions, all but one are liberal Democratic states. Of the 10 with the fewest restrictions, all but two (Iowa and Wisconsin) are conservative Republican.

Surely this is evidence of how politicized the pandemic had become under President Donald Trump, right? Those Republican states are defying “science,” and staying open despite the harm they are doing to their people. Isn’t that what we’ve been hearing?

Well, that would be true if state restrictions were closely correlated with coronavirus deaths.

But a separate chart published by Wallethub shows that there is little apparent correlation between coronavirus death rates and restrictions. As the chart below shows, the spread in death rates is almost identical between the high-restriction and low-restriction states.

This fits with findings we keep seeing, which say that lockdowns, mask mandates, school shutdowns, and other intrusive government regulations are massively expensive and disruptive but appear to have a negligible impact on the disease.  

Even President Joe Biden admitted recently that “there’s nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months.”



What is clear, however, is that state restrictions are killing jobs. The average unemployment rate in the 10 least-restrictive states is 4.7% – well below the national average of 6.7%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In South Dakota, it’s 3%; in Iowa, it’s 3.1%.

Among those states with the most restrictions, the unemployment rate is an average of 7.1%. In Hawaii, it’s 9.3%, in California, 9%.

So, liberal states are more restriction-happy than conservative states. Their residents are more likely to be unemployed, while the impact on the death rate from coronavirus is unclear.

Why are we not surprised?

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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I & I Editorial Board

The Issues and Insights Editorial Board has decades of experience in journalism, commentary and public policy.


  • When the covid first started I was talking to a friend in eastern Europe and he told me “If the government doesn’t tell people what to do most people won’t know what to do.” I look at our government, the very embodiment of screw ups, waste, fraud, malfeasance, corruption, bad ideas, politics and wonder how my friend ever came up with such a notion. Is it really that much better over there? Of course I know it’s not. I just can’t understand how people can watch it and think it is competent.

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