Last updated on June 25, 2020

A Visual Guide to Unemployment Benefit Claims

Note: Our unemployment benefit claims tracker is now archived as of the end of June.

 

According to Thursday’s data release, another 1,457,373 people filed initial regular unemployment benefit claims during the week ending June 20, the eleventh week of a decline in the rate of new claims, but still among the highest levels in U.S. history. (New claims peaked at 6,211,399 for the week ending April 4.) The total number of new and continued claims now stands at 19,378,655, slightly lower than the 19,885,932, in the system last week but a marked decline from the peak of 24,975,778 four weeks ago.

The Department of Labor is now reporting Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims as well, which are claims made by certain self-employed individuals, including subcontractors and gig economy workers, who have lost work due to the crisis and would not normally be eligible for unemployment compensation. The new data show that 11,774,521 people have applied for or are already receiving pandemic unemployment assistance. Counting federal employees, workshare, and other smaller unemployment compensation categories, this brings the total number of Americans receiving benefits to nearly 33 million, but this is almost certainly an underestimate, as PUA claims data remain incomplete.

Prior to the current crisis, the highest one-week unemployment claims as a percentage of everyone in the unemployment insurance system (those currently in “covered” employment plus those claiming benefits) was 1.36 percent, in January 1975. During the Great Recession, the one-week peak was 0.68 percent in January 2009. The peak during the current crisis, reached the week ending April 4, was 3.89 percent.

Approximately 11.7 percent of the U.S. civilian labor force has now applied for or is receiving unemployment compensation benefits (through June 6, the latest data). Counting pandemic claims, over 18.9 percent of the U.S. workforce has applied for or is receiving benefits, and this number is almost certainly too low, as federal data on pandemic claims still omits some states entirely. The previous high was 7.9 percent early in 1975 during a recession, with a Great Recession peak of 4.8 percent between February and April 2009. Entering March 2020, unemployment claims as a percentage of the civilian labor force stood at 1.4 percent.

The map below only includes regular unemployment claims since reporting of pandemic claims is still too inconsistent to allow comparisons.

percentage of jobless claims in the united states, state unemployment rates, state unemployment insurance claims, state unemployment claims, unemployment compensation claims, unemployment insurance claims, unemployment claims by state

Unfortunately, many states entered the crisis with woefully inadequate unemployment compensation trust funds.

According to the Treasury Department, eleven states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Texas, and West Virginia—have already been approved for federal loans (called Title XII Advances) in anticipation of the exhaustion of their trust funds, with five (California, Illinois, New York, Ohio, and Texas) already using those advances to pay out benefit claims. States must repay these advances (with interest starting in 2021), and if they still have outstanding balances after two years, in-state businesses will face higher federal unemployment insurance taxes to compensate for the state being in arrears.

At the same time, however, under guidance from the Treasury Department, some states have begun using funding from the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) under the CARES Act to cover unemployment benefit claims arising from the pandemic. States recently deposited their first-quarter unemployment insurance (UI) tax revenues, moreover, providing a substantial infusion of revenue into their funds.

The revenue boost will not last. The way most states structure their UI taxes, most of the revenue is collected for wages paid in the first quarter of the year, making the recent revenue boosts an annual, not a regular, adjustment. Using the CRF to cover weekly payments, however, is a significant lifeline for states, where declines in weeks of reserves have slowed even as more claims enter the system and can in fact be expected to level off for a while.

States are now processing and paying out claims from self-employed filers (normally ineligible for unemployment compensation) under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program as well. These claims are fully federally funded and do not impact states’ trust funds.

Mandatory business closures and shelter-in-place orders have radically accelerated job losses compared to the steadier pace of layoffs in prior recessions, meaning these claims likely represent a far greater share of the ultimate total than did any week’s claims during the Great Recession. But the numbers are still staggering, with every likelihood of sobering numbers in coming weeks as well.

Our interactive tool allows you to see how the most recent week’s initial unemployment compensation claims in each state compare to average and peak weekly claims during the Great Recession. Many states are woefully unprepared for the magnitude of the challenge ahead. Entering the crisis, 21 states’ unemployment compensation trust funds were below the minimum recommended solvency level to weather a recession. Six states had less than half the minimum recommended amount, representing 37 percent of the U.S. population.

How Solvent is your state's unemployment insurance trust fund? State unemployment insurance solvency, solvency of state unemployment insurance trust funds, solvency of state unemployment trust funds

As more firms lay off employees and unemployment increases, states’ unemployment insurance taxes will rise on businesses that can least afford to pay. As states receive federal assistance to aid with unemployment benefits, it may be appropriate to provide some measure of relief to businesses as well, particularly to the extent that their layoffs were precipitated by business closure orders.

Explore your state’s data on our interactive tool below.

 

You can embed this interactive on your own website by inserting the following code:

<div id="covid19-ui-claims-bar-chart"></div>
<script type="text/javascript" src="https://covid19-ui-claims-bar-chart.netlify.com/pym.js"></script>
<script type="text/javascript" src="https://covid19-ui-claims-bar-chart.netlify.com/pymSetup.js"></script>
Table 1.  Weekly Unemployment Claims During the Great Recession and 2020 Coronavirus
State Great Recession, Average Weekly Claims Great Recession, Peak Weekly Claims 1-Week Initial Claims (ending 6/20) % Change From Following Week
U.S. Total 482,266 956,791 1,457,373 -0.41%
Alabama 6,679 20,894 18,061 -1.67%
Alaska 1,730 4,160 7,050 3.72%
Arizona 5,922 11,178 26,786 19.48%
Arkansas 5,077 10,489 9,135 -2.62%
California 58,695 95,705 287,354 19.02%
Colorado 3,525 7,284 9,757 -6.02%
Connecticut 5,102 13,023 10,362 -12.57%
Delaware 1,235 3,051 2,701 7.35%
District of Columbia 426 1,287 3,004 -1.99%
Florida 17,967 40,403 93,394 5.95%
Georgia 14,156 41,522 124,283 -5.84%
Hawaii 1,793 3,211 7,238 -0.14%
Idaho 2,749 7,303 4,053 11.62%
Illinois 17,760 34,524 46,005 2.93%
Indiana 10,891 28,616 31,885 32.76%
Iowa 5,293 13,865 8,542 -5.81%
Kansas 3,913 18,064 9,964 20.24%
Kentucky 7,974 25,057 24,628 -34.59%
Louisiana 3,783 28,080 20,196 -12.65%
Maine 1,678 5,634 2,835 -5.91%
Maryland 5,775 12,031 31,944 36.22%
Massachusetts 8,881 22,028 29,671 -2.43%
Michigan 22,013 76,702 18,783 -11.79%
Minnesota 6,720 15,195 20,584 -16.65%
Mississippi 3,477 9,420 15,140 -17.75%
Missouri 9,227 21,413 15,968 -15.57%
Montana 1,433 3,837 2,845 -9.88%
Nebraska 1,637 3,780 4,441 -8.77%
Nevada 4,765 8,945 13,760 29.57%
New Hampshire 1,413 3,594 5,276 -17.96%
New Jersey 12,255 24,095 32,396 22.54%
New Mexico 1,478 3,308 5,083 -0.55%
New York 24,033 54,805 90,186 -5.22%
North Carolina 17,175 56,647 28,463 -11.57%
North Dakota 610 2,332 2,002 -3.42%
Ohio 16,945 40,829 34,375 3.73%
Oklahoma 2,867 6,196 49,208 -41.96%
Oregon 9,316 20,916 15,737 -36.15%
Pennsylvania 28,262 59,669 56,089 14.01%
Puerto Rico 3,519 7,267 9,043 11.68%
Rhode Island 1,855 3,987 3,465 31.20%
South Carolina 7,730 22,548 17,098 -13.88%
South Dakota 463 1,382 857 -19.53%
Tennessee 8,398 30,753 21,155 8.97%
Texas 18,092 49,398 89,241 -5.79%
Utah 2,112 5,205 4,961 3.29%
Vermont 1,016 2,860 1,311 -29.48%
Virgin Islands 65 235 27 -49.06%
Virginia 7,098 21,862 26,072 -4.10%
Washington 11,091 26,075 34,809 15.20%
West Virginia 1,747 4,368 3,601 -16.78%
Wisconsin 16,025 35,885 25,417 -0.49%
Wyoming 565 1,483 1,132 -26.45%
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Table 2. Initial and Continuing Regular Unemployment Compensation Claims as a Percentage of the Civilian Labor Force
U.S. Total 11.7%
Alabama 7.2%
Alaska 15.0%
Arizona 6.5%
Arkansas 8.6%
California 15.9%
Colorado 8.4%
Connecticut 13.7%
Delaware 10.9%
District of Columbia 17.7%
Florida 10.1%
Georgia 15.2%
Hawaii 21.0%
Idaho 4.0%
Illinois 11.9%
Indiana 7.0%
Iowa 9.4%
Kansas 6.9%
Kentucky 9.5%
Louisiana 15.1%
Maine 9.5%
Maryland 8.3%
Massachusetts 15.5%
Michigan 12.4%
Minnesota 12.6%
Mississippi 13.1%
Missouri 7.3%
Montana 8.3%
Nebraska 5.8%
Nevada 19.1%
New Hampshire 12.5%
New Jersey 12.2%
New Mexico 11.3%
New York 18.3%
North Carolina 10.8%
North Dakota 8.9%
Ohio 8.2%
Oklahoma 12.4%
Oregon 19.1%
Pennsylvania 12.4%
Puerto Rico 19.6%
Rhode Island 13.1%
South Carolina 8.9%
South Dakota 3.9%
Tennessee 8.9%
Texas 9.4%
Utah 4.8%
Vermont 12.9%
Virgin Islands
Virginia 9.0%
Washington 12.2%
West Virginia 9.9%
Wisconsin 8.1%
Wyoming 5.9%
Source: U.S. Department of Labor; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Tax Foundation calculations.
Note: Excludes Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Claims, which are fully paid by the federal government, because federal reporting still omits many states.

Updates

  • June 25, 2020: Weekly initial unemployment benefit claims added for the week ending June 20, 2020.
  • June 18, 2020: Weekly initial unemployment benefit claims added for the week ending June 13, 2020.
  • June 11, 2020: Weekly initial unemployment benefit claims added for the week ending June 6, 2020.
  • June 4, 2020: Weekly initial unemployment benefit claims added for the week ending May 30, 2020.
  • May 28, 2020: Weekly initial unemployment benefit claims added for the week ending May 23, 2020.
  • May 21, 2020: Weekly initial unemployment benefit claims added for the week ending May 16, 2020.
  • May 14, 2020: Weekly initial unemployment benefit claims added for the week ending May 9, 2020.
  • May 7, 2020: Weekly initial unemployment benefit claims added for the week ending May 2, 2020.
  • April 30, 2020: Weekly initial unemployment benefit claims added for the week ending April 25, 2020.
  • April 23, 2020: Weekly initial unemployment benefit claims added for the week ending April 18, 2020.
  • April 16, 2020: Weekly initial unemployment benefit claims added for the week ending April 11, 2020.
  • April 9, 2020: Weekly initial unemployment benefit claims added for the week ending April 4, 2020.
  • April 2, 2020: Weekly initial unemployment benefit claims added for the week ending March 28, 2020.

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