Tuesday, May 26, 2020

More than a quarter of the workforce in 10 states has filed for unemployment [feedly]

More than a quarter of the workforce in 10 states has filed for unemployment

The Department of Labor (DOL) released the most recent unemployment insurance (UI) claims data this morning, showing that another 2.2 million people filed for regular UI benefits last week (not seasonally adjusted) and 1.2 million for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), the new program for workers who aren't eligible for regular UI, such as gig workers.

While most states saw a decline in UI claims filed relative to the prior week, 12 states saw increases in UI claims. Washington saw the largest percent increase in claims (31.0%) compared with the prior week, followed by California (15.7%), New York (13.6%), and North Dakota (10.1%).

A note about the data: Unless otherwise noted, the numbers in this blog post are the ones reported by the U.S. Department of Labor, which they receive from the state agencies that administer UI. While DOL is asking states to report regular UI claims and PUA claims separately, many states are also including some or all PUA claimants in their reported regular UI claims. As state agencies work to get these new programs up and running, there will likely continue to be some misreporting. Since the number of UI claims is one of the most up-to-date measures of labor market weakness and access to benefits, we will still be analyzing it each week as reported by DOL, but we ask that you keep these caveats in mind when interpreting the data.

Figure A and Table 1 below compare regular UI claims filed last week with the prior week and the pre-virus period, in both level and percent terms. It also shows the cumulative number of unemployment claims since March 7 and that number as a share of each state's labor force. In 10 states, more than a quarter of the workforce filed an initial claim during the past 10 weeks: Georgia (39.2%), Kentucky (38.0%), Hawaii (35.0%), Washington (30.9%), Louisiana (29.9%), Rhode Island (29.7%), Nevada (29.6%), Michigan (29.2%), Pennsylvania (28.4%), and Alaska (27.9%).

Figure A

All states continue to see astonishingly high numbers of claims relative to the pre-virus period, but the rise in claims has been particularly pronounced in the South. Last week, Florida and Georgia saw the largest percent increase in claims (4,319% and 3,198%, respectively) compared with the pre-virus period. Eight of the 10 states that had the highest percent change in initial regular UI claims relative to the pre-virus period are in the South: Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.

Table 2 below displays the reported number of people who applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)—the new federal program that extends unemployment compensation to workers who are not eligible for regular UI but are out of work due to the pandemic, such as gig workers and people who left their jobs to care for a child. The U.S. DOL's release on 5/21/2020 reported that 1,184,792 initial PUA claims were filed in Massachusetts last week, but the correct number is 115,952. The total number of initial PUA claims in the U.S. last week has also been corrected to 1.2 million to reflect this change.

In the last three weeks, about three million workers in 36 states have filed for PUA, with the most PUA claims in California (547,188), Michigan (388,749), New York (269,426), Massachusetts (255,242), and North Carolina (184,304).

To mitigate the economic harm to workers, the next federal relief and recovery package should extend the across-the-board $600 increase in weekly unemployment benefits well past its expiration at the end of July. The package should also include substantial aid to state and local governments (without which, a prolonged depression is inevitable), worker protections, investments in our democracy, and resources for coronavirus testing and contact tracing, which is necessary to reopen the economy.

Table 1
Table 2

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