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Sunday, May 10, 2020

Updated state unemployment numbers: Large shares of the labor force have filed for unemployment in every state [feedly]

Updated state unemployment numbers: Large shares of the labor force have filed for unemployment in every state
https://www.epi.org/blog/updated-state-unemployment-numbers-large-shares-of-the-labor-force-have-filed-for-unemployment-in-every-state/

he Department of Labor released the most recent unemployment insurance (UI) claims data yesterday, showing that another 2.8 million people filed for unemployment last week (not seasonally adjusted). In the past seven weeks, more than 30 million workers applied for UI benefits across the country, or nearly one in five workers.

Despite most states seeing a decline in UI claims filed relative to last week, six states saw increases in UI claims. Maine saw the largest percent increase in claims (111.1%) compared with the prior week, followed by Maryland (72.1%), New Mexico (38.9%), Oklahoma (30.0%), New Jersey (21.6%), and Connecticut (9.5%).

After California, Texas residents filed the second most UI claims last week, followed by Georgia. This comes after several states have allowed restaurants and similar businesses to reopen, including many in the South and Midwest, indicating that state policymakers are risking a greater outbreak with very little of the economic benefits they had expected.

Figure A and Table 1 below compare 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 three states, almost a third of the workforce filed an initial claim during the past two months: Kentucky (32.3%), Hawaii (31.7%), and Georgia (31.1%).

Figure A

Every state, especially many in the South, is continuing to struggle relative to the pre-virus period. Last week, Oklahoma saw the largest percent increase in claims (4,325%) compared with the pre-virus period of any state. Eight of the 10 states that had the highest percent change in initial UI claims relative to the pre-virus period are in the South: Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina.

Sadly, the high amount of UI claims filings understates the true extent of joblessness. Using new survey data, we estimate that millions of people are jobless but unable to claim the unemployment benefits they need simply because the system is overburdened. A recent report by Michele Evermore of the National Employment Law Project (NELP) outline how some states—including Florida—have deliberately built their UI systems to discourage applicants and fail workers. This underscores the importance of investing in government services that we may all need at some point in our lives when we are most in need of support.

To mitigate the economic harm to workers, the next federal relief and recovery package should make substantial additional investments in unemployment compensation, including providing additional funding to states to hire the staff they need to speed up processing and to make improvements to websites and other administrative infrastructure. Congress should also extend the across-the-board $600 increase in weekly unemployment benefits well past its expiration at the end of July—at least until unemployment is falling rapidly and is at a manageable level.

Additionally, policymakers must enact and enforce measures to keep workers safe, and extend stay-at-home orders until the coronavirus curve has flattened. At the same time, they must also address gaps in existing coronavirus relief and recovery measures, including insufficient aid to state and local governments.

Table 1
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