Fewer COVID-19 restrictions would have saved more North Carolina jobs, a recent report from the Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) shows.

The GCO measured the impact of local and state governments' actions in response to the pandemic on each state's economy in a 510-page report, Assessing Each State's Response To The Pandemic: Understanding The Impact On Employment & Work.

Each state had to temporarily close businesses and implement COVID-19 restrictions, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of people being unable to work. The GCO analysis showed North Carolina's job recovery could be better if restrictions were not as severe.

"However, the job loss could have been worse had it been more severe," said Erik Randolph, director of research for GCO and author of the report.

The report compared the states using the Abridged Oxford Stringency Index (AOSI) from the Coronavirus Government Response Tracker of Oxford University's Blavatnik School of Government. GCO created a Government Severity Index (GSI), which analyzed the impact of school closures (K-12), workplace closures, gathering restrictions, capacity limits and stay-at-home mandates.

North Carolina ranked 19th in the GSI and 10th in the AOSI. As of October, North Carolina recovered 87.4% of jobs lost because of the pandemic, ranking 12th in the nation by GCO. The initial job loss impact from the pandemic was about average for North Carolina, ranking 32nd among the states.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has kept restrictions tight for most of the pandemic. Republicans have filed multiple bills directing the governor to reopen businesses, schools and reduce other mandates. The state's COVID-19 emergency declaration is still active despite constant urging from Republicans to end it. Cooper recently signed legislation that would limit the governor's power to shut down the economy with an emergency declaration in the future.

Washington placed highest on the Government Severity Index and 14th on the Abridged Oxford Stringency Index. Hawaii was second-highest in both indices, and New York ranked third-highest.

The GCO said nationwide results "suggest that state and local governments must craft their economic response to the pandemic with greater care, seeking to impact employment less severely."