Congress has failed to extend additional unemployment benefits as millions of workers across the country file new UI claims

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released the most recent unemployment insurance (UI) claims data last Thursday, showing that another 2.3 million people filed for UI benefits during the week ending July 18. Huge swaths of workers in every state are relying on UI for food, rent, and basic necessities. There are 14 million more unemployed workers than jobs. In the face of this economic crisis, Congress has let the extra $600 in weekly UI benefits expire, and now Senate Republicans are proposing reducing the increase to $200, which would cause such a huge drop in spending that it would cost 3.4 million jobs. These benefit cuts will directly harm the workers and their families who need these benefits to weather the pandemic and will cause further economic harm over the next year.

Figure A shows the share of workers in each state who either made it through at least the first round of state UI processing (these are known as “continued” claims) or filed initial UI claims in the following weeks. The map includes separate totals for regular UI and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), the new program for workers who aren’t eligible for regular UI, such as gig workers.

The map also includes an estimated “grand total,” which includes other programs such as Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and Short-Time Compensation (STC). The vast majority of states are reporting that more than one in 10 workers are claiming UI. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia report that more than one in five of their pre-pandemic labor force is now claiming UI under any of these programs. The components of this total are listed in Table 1.1

Three states had more than 1 million workers either receiving regular UI benefits or waiting for their claim to be approved: California (3.0 million), New York (1.6 million), and Texas (1.4 million). Seven additional states had more than half a million workers receiving or awaiting benefits.

While the largest U.S. states unsurprisingly have the highest numbers of UI claimants, some smaller states have larger shares of the workforce filing for unemployment. Figure A also displays the numbers of workers in each state who are receiving or waiting for regular UI benefits as a share of the pre-pandemic labor force in February 2020. In six states and the District of Columbia, more than one in seven workers are receiving regular UI benefits or waiting on their claim to be approved: Hawaii (20.8%), Nevada (20.7%), the District of Columbia (17.9%), New York (17.1%), Louisiana (15.9%), Georgia (15.8%), and California (15.5%).

Eight states reported that more than one in ten workers are currently claiming PUA, underscoring the importance of extending benefits to those who would otherwise not have been eligible: Michigan (21.2%), Maryland (16.4%), Hawaii (14.0%), California (13.0%), New York (12.3%), Massachusetts (12.1%), Nevada (11.7%), and Rhode Island (11.4%). Pennsylvania reported that 3.8 million workers have claimed PUA, but that would constitute nearly 60% of the state’s workforce, so this is almost definitely misreporting. Arizona did not report any continuing PUA claims for the week ending July 4, which is also likely misreporting since they had reported 2.3 million for the prior week.

Figure A

Cumulative jobless claims by state: Numbers and shares of workers either receiving unemployment benefits or waiting for approval during the week ending July 18

State Currently receiving or applied for regular UI Regular UI as a share of labor force Currently receiving or applied for PUA PUA as a share of the labor force Total* receiving or applied for benefits Total* as a share of the labor force
Alabama 121,011 5.4% 53,352 2.4% 218,256 9.7%
Alaska 48,120 13.9% 18,063 5.2% 70,264 20.3%
Arizona 245,370 6.8% 0 0.0% 260,838 7.2%
Arkansas 112,001 8.2% 110,975 8.1% 242,442 17.7%
California 3,021,954 15.5% 2,543,725 13.0% 5,817,186 29.8%
Colorado 248,273 7.8% 107,714 3.4% 360,273 11.3%
Connecticut 264,083 13.7% 69,155 3.6% 354,917 18.4%
Delaware 48,710 10.0% 11,064 2.3% 61,752 12.6%
Washington D.C. 74,373 17.9% 14,596 3.5% 91,699 22.1%
Florida 797,296 7.6% 34,213 0.3% 835,144 8.0%
Georgia 816,108 15.8% 235,760 4.6% 1,053,590 20.4%
Hawaii 139,409 20.8% 93,969 14.0% 233,839 34.9%
Idaho 31,735 3.6% 3,927 0.4% 40,729 4.6%
Illinois 691,054 10.8% 274,484 4.3% 1,007,161 15.7%
Indiana 207,754 6.1% 316,423 9.3% 533,025 15.7%
Iowa 126,315 7.2% 16,890 1.0% 155,902 8.9%
Kansas 109,168 7.3% 145,230 9.7% 265,889 17.8%
Kentucky 170,026 8.2% 62,511 3.0% 232,876 11.2%
Louisiana 334,695 15.9% 168,111 8.0% 506,617 24.0%
Maine 61,083 8.8% 28,858 4.2% 93,947 13.5%
Maryland 240,624 7.3% 536,499 16.4% 789,061 24.1%
Massachusetts 531,547 13.9% 462,481 12.1% 1,042,052 27.2%
Michigan 527,935 10.7% 1,047,016 21.2% 1,697,433 34.3%
Minnesota 351,995 11.3% 66,500 2.1% 458,280 14.7%
Mississippi 165,257 12.9% 60,206 4.7% 230,470 18.1%
Missouri 185,913 6.0% 115,210 3.7% 328,651 10.6%
Montana 37,935 7.1% 48,749 9.1% 89,548 16.7%
Nebraska 55,231 5.3% 30,773 3.0% 90,196 8.7%
Nevada 322,432 20.7% 182,283 11.7% 515,551 33.1%
New Hampshire 74,310 9.5% 71,305 9.1% 149,213 19.1%
New Jersey 500,033 11.0% 425,622 9.3% 996,018 21.8%
New Mexico 106,115 11.0% 68,751 7.1% 179,730 18.7%
New York 1,629,995 17.1% 1,170,529 12.3% 2,917,695 30.5%
North Carolina 347,380 6.8% 237,507 4.6% 731,777 14.3%
North Dakota 32,240 8.0% 9,356 2.3% 44,998 11.1%
Ohio 432,815 7.4% 577,254 9.9% 1,049,690 18.0%
Oklahoma 127,168 6.9% 1,966 0.1% 129,998 7.0%
Oregon 227,435 10.8% 44,707 2.1% 334,908 15.9%
Pennsylvania 711,390 10.8%
Rhode Island 67,368 12.1% 63,596 11.4% 139,974 25.1%
South Carolina 212,145 8.9% 88,499 3.7% 317,200 13.3%
South Dakota 17,292 3.7% 4,382 0.9% 22,246 4.8%
Tennessee 279,462 8.3% 165,381 4.9% 450,457 13.4%
Texas 1,355,766 9.5% 251,364 1.8% 1,654,299 11.7%
Utah 72,562 4.4% 13,749 0.8% 91,097 5.6%
Vermont 41,424 12.2% 10,437 3.1% 53,193 15.6%
Virginia 398,253 8.9% 415,775 9.3% 832,652 18.7%
Washington 483,259 12.2% 162,041 4.1% 716,389 18.1%
West Virginia 74,908 9.3% 0 0.0% 79,700 9.9%
Wisconsin 244,501 7.9% 60,382 1.9% 325,688 10.5%
Wyoming 16,595 5.6% 3,985 1.4% 20,597 7.0%

This is an upper bound on the number of people “on” UI, for two reasons: (1) regular state UI and PUA claims should be nonoverlapping—that is how DOL has directed agencies to report them—but some individuals may be being counted twice; (2) some states are likely including some back weeks in their continuing PUA claims, which would also lead to double counting. Non-seasonally-adjusted data are used throughout. Regular state UI continued claims are for the week ending July 11; regular state UI initial claims are for the week ending July 18. PUA continued claims are for the week ending July 4; PUA initial claims are for the weeks ending July 11 and July 18. “Other programs” are continued claims in other programs for the week ending July 4. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is the federal program for workers who are out of work because of the virus but who are not eligible for regular state unemployment insurance (UI) benefits (e.g., the self-employed). “Other programs” includes PEUC, STC, and others; a full list can be found in the bottom panel of the table on page 4 at this link: https://www.dol.gov/ui/data.pdf.

Source: U.S. Employment and Training Administration, Initial Claims [ICSA], retrieved from Department of Labor (DOL), https://www.dol.gov/ui/data.pdf and https://oui.doleta.gov/unemploy/claims.asp, July 23, 2020.

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As we look at the aggregate measures of economic harm, it is also important to remember that this recession is deepening racial inequalities. Black communities are suffering more from this pandemic—both physically and economically—as a result of, and in addition to, systemic racism and violence. Both Black and Hispanic workers are more likely than white workers to be worried about exposure to the coronavirus at work and bringing it home to their families. These communities, and Black women in particular, should be centered in policy solutions. Cutting off the $600 UI benefit will deepen existing racial inequalities, since Black and Hispanic workers have higher unemployment rates than white workers.

In addition to extending the additional weekly $600 benefit that they have allowed to expire, which will help workers in the immediate term and support millions of jobs, Congress should provide substantial aid to state and local governments. Without this aid, a prolonged depression is inevitable, especially if state and local governments make the same budget and employment cuts that slowed the recovery after the Great Recession. More than five million workers would likely lose their jobs by the end of 2021, harming women and Black workers in particular since they are disproportionately likely to work for state and local governments.

We should despair for the millions who have lost their jobs and for their families, and our top priority as a country should be protecting the health and safety of workers and our broader communities by paying workers to stay home when possible, whether that means working from home some or all of the time, using paid leave, or claiming UI benefits. When workers are providing absolutely essential services, they must have access to adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and paid sick leave. The current spike in coronavirus cases across the country—and subsequent re-shuttering of certain businesses—show the devastating costs of reopening the economy prematurely.

Table 1

New and cumulative jobless claims by state: Number of workers either receiving unemployment benefits or waiting for approval during the week ending July 18

Regular UI Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Other programs
State Most recent continued claims claims: 07/11/2020 Most recent week initial claims: 07/18/2020 Most recent continued claims claims: 07/04/2020 Total initial claims – most recent 2 weeks Most recent continued claims: 07/04/2020 Total receiving UI or waiting for approval*
Alabama 98,044 22,967 44,321 9,031 43,893 218,256
Alaska 41,208 6,912 16,633 1,430 4,081 70,264
Arizona 222,990 22,380 0 0 15,468 260,838
Arkansas 96,617 15,384 88,579 22,396 19,466 242,442
California 2,729,281 292,673 2,253,420 290,305 251,507 5,817,186
Colorado 239,966 8,307 93,079 14,635 4,286 360,273
Connecticut 252,524 11,559 63,854 5,301 21,679 354,917
Delaware 46,117 2,593 10,343 721 1,978 61,752
District of Columbia 71,360 3,013 13,316 1,280 2,730 91,699
Florida 691,886 105,410 0 34,213 3,635 835,144
Georgia 695,827 120,281 166,810 68,950 1,722 1,053,590
Hawaii 131,676 7,733 86,594 7,375 461 233,839
Idaho 26,311 5,424 2,727 1,200 5,067 40,729
Illinois 655,116 35,938 142,913 131,571 41,623 1,007,161
Indiana 189,816 17,938 267,770 48,653 8,848 533,025
Iowa 116,810 9,505 13,658 3,232 12,697 155,902
Kansas 97,971 11,197 136,546 8,684 11,491 265,889
Kentucky 145,786 24,240 56,969 5,542 339 232,876
Louisiana 303,540 31,155 148,322 19,789 3,811 506,617
Maine 58,900 2,183 23,852 5,006 4,006 93,947
Maryland 224,235 16,389 503,235 33,264 11,938 789,061
Massachusetts 513,234 18,313 437,247 25,234 48,024 1,042,052
Michigan 506,099 21,836 996,849 50,167 122,482 1,697,433
Minnesota 333,663 18,332 65,187 1,313 39,785 458,280
Mississippi 153,539 11,718 51,332 8,874 5,007 230,470
Missouri 174,325 11,588 98,059 17,151 27,528 328,651
Montana 35,371 2,564 44,136 4,613 2,864 89,548
Nebraska 51,242 3,989 27,589 3,184 4,192 90,196
Nevada 303,657 18,775 135,727 46,556 10,836 515,551
New Hampshire 71,005 3,305 23,481 47,824 3,598 149,213
New Jersey 474,427 25,606 396,381 29,241 70,363 996,018
New Mexico 97,980 8,135 62,449 6,302 4,864 179,730
New York 1,541,735 88,260 1,060,127 110,402 117,171 2,917,695
North Carolina 319,057 28,323 197,123 40,384 146,890 731,777
North Dakota 30,156 2,084 8,112 1,244 3,402 44,998
Ohio 403,051 29,764 412,034 165,220 39,621 1,049,690
Oklahoma 118,589 8,579 0 1,966 864 129,998
Oregon 217,747 9,688 28,450 16,257 62,766 334,908
Pennsylvania 674,152 37,238
Rhode Island 64,054 3,314 49,085 14,511 9,010 139,974
South Carolina 197,799 14,346 66,515 21,984 16,556 317,200
South Dakota 16,594 698 4,123 259 572 22,246
Tennessee 253,668 25,794 142,896 22,485 5,614 450,457
Texas 1,268,945 86,821 184,253 67,111 47,169 1,654,299
Utah 68,048 4,514 10,776 2,973 4,786 91,097
Vermont 39,864 1,560 9,296 1,141 1,332 53,193
Virginia 358,065 40,188 381,215 34,560 18,624 832,652
Washington 448,620 34,639 145,759 16,282 71,089 716,389
West Virginia 71,364 3,544 0 0 4,792 79,700
Wisconsin 219,369 25,132 54,379 6,003 20,805 325,688
Wyoming 14,405 2,190 3,381 604 17 20,597

This is an upper bound on the number of people “on” UI, for two reasons: (1) regular state UI and PUA claims should be nonoverlapping—that is how DOL has directed agencies to report them—but some individuals may be being counted twice; (2) some states are likely including some back weeks in their continuing PUA claims, which would also lead to double counting. Non-seasonally-adjusted data are used throughout. Regular state UI continued claims are for the week ending July 11; regular state UI initial claims are for the week ending July 18. PUA continued claims are for the week ending July 4; PUA initial claims are for the weeks ending July 11 and July 18. “Other programs” are continued claims in other programs for the week ending July 4. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is the federal program for workers who are out of work because of the virus but who are not eligible for regular state unemployment insurance (UI) benefits (e.g., the self-employed). “Other programs” includes PEUC, STC, and others; a full list can be found in the bottom panel of the table on page 4 at this link: https://www.dol.gov/ui/data.pdf.

Source: U.S. Employment and Training Administration, Initial Claims [ICSA], retrieved from Department of Labor (DOL), https://www.dol.gov/ui/data.pdf and https://oui.doleta.gov/unemploy/claims.asp, July 23, 2020.

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Notes

1.  That total is really more of an upper bound, and you should exercise caution when interpreting it for three reasons: (1) It includes initial claims, which represent people who have not yet made it through the first round of processing; (2) Some individuals may be being counted twice. Regular state UI and PUA claims should not be overlapping—that is how DOL has directed state agencies to report them—but some states may be misreporting; (3) Some states are likely including some back weeks in their continuing PUA claims, which would also lead to double counting (the discussion around Figure 3 in this paper covers this issue well). Those limitations are the reason that we have so far hesitated to publish this estimate of total claims by state. DOL has worked to overcome misreporting issues and has had enough success that we are now comfortable enough to report the totals here. However, it is clear that there is still some misreporting. Unless otherwise noted, all numbers are as reported by DOL. In this post, I drop the reported PUA (and total) claims for Pennsylvania from the figure and table, since they reported more than 3 million PUA claims to DOL (more than half of their labor force!) despite their Office of Unemployment Compensation reporting that they have only received 1.5 million PUA claims.