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Saturday, April 11, 2020

States continue to see record-high levels of initial unemployment insurance claims, including in the South [feedly]

States continue to see record-high levels of initial unemployment insurance claims, including in the South
https://www.epi.org/blog/states-continue-to-see-record-high-levels-of-initial-unemployment-insurance-claims-including-in-the-south/

Key takeaways:
  • 28 states had record numbers of unemployment insurance (UI) filings last week. The rest of them had their record high one of the previous two weeks.
  • California, Georgia, Michigan, New York, and Texas filed the most claims last week.
  • Southern states didn't initially lose jobs as quickly as other states, because they were slow to implement social distancing measures. Now, however, they are experiencing this unprecedented job loss particularly acutely.
  • The federal government should take on the costs of keeping workers on the payroll and provide substantially more funding to state and local governments.

Another 6.6 million people filed initial unemployment insurance (UI) claims last week, continuing the upending of the labor market we have seen in response to the coronavirus pandemic. According to seasonally adjusted data released yesterday morning by the Department of Labor, over the last three weeks, 16.8 million—over one in 10—workers have filed for UI. As the labor market is disrupted, so are the lives of millions of workers across the country.

Last week, 28 states saw a record number of initial UI filings, with the rest of the states experiencing their high point during one of the prior two weeks. While many states saw a slight decline in UI claims compared to the prior week, the number of claims filed this week is still staggeringly high. In the four weeks between March 7 and April 4, over two million Californians and one million Pennsylvanians filed UI claims. 

Figure A

In addition to the one-week change in UI claims (which is slower or even negative relative to the record-setting week before), Figure A shows the change in claims relative to the pre-virus period, or the average of initial UI claims for the four weeks ending March 7.

After Californians, Georgians filed the most initial UI claims last week, followed by Michigan, New York, and Texas. In fact, last week Georgia saw the largest percent increase in claims of any state compared to the week prior and relative to the pre-virus period. As we predicted, initial UI claims continued to increase across much of the South. Many other southern states were among the 10 states with the highest over-the-week percent change in UI claims (Arkansas, Mississippi, Virginia, Alabama, and South Carolina) or the ten states with the highest percent change relative to the pre-virus period (Louisiana, Tennessee, Virginia, Mississippi, and North Carolina).

Although Southern states generally weren't among the hardest hit initially, likely because they were slow to take up social distancing measures, it is now clear that they are also experiencing job loss on an unprecedented scale. This underscores the importance of the need for policymakers in Southern states to bolster and expand access to their strained UI systems.

Table 1 shows the data displayed in the map as well as the change in UI claims over the last four weeks relative to the same four-week period a year ago. These extreme increases in UI claims over the past few weeks represent not only a devastating loss of income for these individuals and their families, but a massive strain on under-resourced state unemployment insurance agencies. To get these workers the unemployment they deserve and desperately need, federal funding is needed to support these agencies and states must leverage existing laws to get aid to workers quickly.

We expect nearly 20 million workers to be laid off or furloughed by the summer, although it could end up being even higher. While it may seem like job losses are an inevitable outcome of the social distancing measures necessary to slow the spread of disease, this is simply not the case. In other countries, like Denmark, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, the government has stepped in to cover most payroll costs for employers affected by coronavirus-related shutdowns. The United States could follow suit by doing the same and undertaking other transformative measures. At the very least, policymakers must address gaps, including insufficient aid to state and local governments, in the existing relief and recovery measures in a fourth package.

Table 1

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