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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Updated state unemployment numbers remain astonishingly high: Six states saw record-high levels of initial unemployment claims last week [feedly]

Updated state unemployment numbers remain astonishingly high: Six states saw record-high levels of initial unemployment claims last week

This morning, the Department of Labor released the latest initial unemployment insurance (UI) claims data, showing that another five million people (not seasonally adjusted) filed for UI last week. In the last four weeks, more than 20 million workers—whose economic security has been upended by the coronavirus crisis and inadequate policy responses—filed for UI.

Last week, Colorado, New York, South Carolina, Connecticut, Mississippi, and West Virginia saw their highest level of initial UI claim filings ever. These six states, along with Florida, Missouri, and North Carolina, saw increases in initial filings compared with the prior week.

Most states had fewer initial UI claims last week than the week prior, but the number of UI claims remained astonishingly high. California and Michigan—the two states with the largest decline since the week before—still had 661,000 and 219,000 claims filed last week, respectively—the third highest week on record for both.

Figure A compares UI claims filed last week with filings in the pre-virus period, showing once again that Southern states are faring particularly poorly. Seven of the 10 states that had the highest percent change last week relative to the pre-virus period are Southern: Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Louisiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Alabama.

Figure A

Table 1 shows the data displayed in the map as well as the change in UI claims over the last five weeks relative to the same five-week period a year ago.

These UI claims represent a devastating loss of income and security for workers and their families and also have exacerbated existing inequalities. Women have been overrepresented in the number of job losses so far. The leisure and hospitality sector, which has laid off the most workers, disproportionately employs immigrants and people of color.

The staggering number of claims has also placed an enormous amount of strain on the agencies tasked with administering these benefits. Federal funding is needed to support these agencies and states must leverage existing laws to get aid to workers quickly.

For 9.2 million workers in the last four weeks, losing their job meant also losing their employer-provided health insurance. The federal government should expand Medicare and Medicaid to these workers so that they are able to seek care during the pandemic, should they need it. The United States could also follow the lead of other countries, such as Denmark and the Netherlands, by undertaking other transformative measures to guarantee paychecks to all workers. At a minimum, policymakers must address gaps in the existing coronavirus relief and recovery measures, including insufficient aid to state and local governments, in a fourth package.

Table 1

 -- via my feedly newsfeed

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