Cuts to unemployment benefits harm millions of workers across the country: See updated state unemployment data

The most recent unemployment insurance (UI) claims data released on Thursday show that another 1.3 million people filed for UI benefits during the week ending August 8. Huge swaths of workers in every state are relying on UI for food, rent, and basic necessities. In the face of this economic crisis, Senate Republicans let the extra $600 in weekly UI benefits expire, and now the Trump administration, in a largely unserious stunt, is proposing slashing the benefit in half to $300 through executive order. If implemented, this cut would cause such a huge drop in spending that it would cost 2.6 million jobs 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), Extended Benefits (EB), and Short-Time Compensation (STC). The vast majority of states are reporting that more than one in 10 workers are claiming UI. Ten 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 (3.2 million), New York (1.5 million), and Texas (1.3 million). Five 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 four 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: Nevada (23.1%), Hawaii (19.5%), the District of Columbia (16.9%), California (16.4%), and New York (15.7%).

Nine states reported that more than one in 10 workers are currently claiming PUA, underscoring the importance of extending benefits to those who would otherwise not have been eligible: Pennsylvania (16.5%), Michigan (16.3%), California (14.9%), Rhode Island (14.4%), New York (14.3%), Hawaii (14.0%), Massachusetts (11.9%), Arkansas (10.3%), and Nevada (10.2%).

Figure A

Cumulative jobless claims by state: Numbers and shares of workers either receiving unemployment benefits or waiting for approval during the week ending August 8

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 Upper bound* receiving or applied for UI Upper bound as a share of the labor force
Alabama 67,922 3.0% 45,566 2.0% 188,425 8.4%
Alaska 38,723 11.2% 18,175 5.3% 61,888 17.9%
Arizona 225,172 6.2% 359,428 9.9% 604,502 16.7%
Arkansas 65,639 4.8% 141,178 10.3% 235,326 17.2%
California 3,198,436 16.4% 2,910,832 14.9% 6,464,502 33.1%
Colorado 207,196 6.5% 92,249 2.9% 311,503 9.8%
Connecticut 239,817 12.4% 70,728 3.7% 324,536 16.8%
Delaware 41,398 8.5% 9,801 2.0% 54,093 11.1%
Washington D.C. 70,075 16.9% 14,691 3.5% 87,900 21.2%
Florida 586,236 5.6% 23,504 0.2% 664,438 6.4%
Georgia 640,437 12.4% 353,554 6.9% 995,169 19.3%
Hawaii 130,415 19.5% 93,351 14.0% 224,256 33.5%
Idaho 22,103 2.5% 16,703 1.9% 44,681 5.0%
Illinois 649,658 10.2% 144,957 2.3% 839,435 13.1%
Indiana 202,162 6.0% 156,011 4.6% 367,373 10.8%
Iowa 98,135 5.6% 17,611 1.0% 133,938 7.6%
Kansas 93,275 6.2% 115,333 7.7% 225,050 15.0%
Kentucky 158,811 7.6% 25,317 1.2% 184,496 8.9%
Louisiana 300,920 14.3% 169,211 8.0% 474,355 22.5%
Maine 50,824 7.3% 27,165 3.9% 84,162 12.1%
Maryland 188,464 5.7% 264,132 8.1% 467,936 14.3%
Massachusetts 465,069 12.1% 457,111 11.9% 972,512 25.4%
Michigan 536,953 10.8% 805,643 16.3% 1,498,064 30.3%
Minnesota 273,604 8.8% 61,933 2.0% 373,744 12.0%
Mississippi 140,083 11.0% 59,077 4.6% 207,938 16.3%
Missouri 148,655 4.8% 67,307 2.2% 247,417 8.0%
Montana 29,523 5.5% 46,431 8.6% 79,575 14.8%
Nebraska 40,283 3.9% 25,743 2.5% 71,550 6.9%
Nevada 360,542 23.1% 159,291 10.2% 536,636 34.4%
New Hampshire 56,689 7.3% 20,777 2.7% 81,622 10.5%
New Jersey 436,084 9.6% 453,107 9.9% 961,206 21.1%
New Mexico 100,451 10.4% 83,496 8.7% 189,926 19.7%
New York 1,500,441 15.7% 1,368,256 14.3% 3,000,246 31.4%
North Carolina 248,040 4.8% 213,072 4.2% 666,975 13.0%
North Dakota 24,345 6.0% 7,956 2.0% 36,678 9.1%
Ohio 370,792 6.4% 374,318 6.4% 789,398 13.5%
Oklahoma 122,804 6.7% 2,371 0.1% 126,606 6.9%
Oregon 196,361 9.3% 122,845 5.8% 364,410 17.3%
Pennsylvania 701,880 10.7% 1,082,306 16.5% 1,842,392 28.1%
Rhode Island 58,716 10.5% 80,382 14.4% 149,591 26.8%
South Carolina 174,296 7.3% 84,451 3.5% 279,756 11.7%
South Dakota 15,339 3.3% 4,418 0.9% 20,411 4.4%
Tennessee 228,004 6.8% 154,510 4.6% 390,532 11.6%
Texas 1,288,863 9.1% 281,217 2.0% 1,626,017 11.5%
Utah 60,746 3.7% 9,266 0.6% 76,699 4.7%
Vermont 33,959 10.0% 10,327 3.0% 45,530 13.4%
Virginia 278,097 6.2% 260,739 5.8% 582,197 13.0%
Washington 397,929 10.0% 150,289 3.8% 621,669 15.7%
West Virginia 64,325 8.0% 0 0.0% 65,719 8.1%
Wisconsin 196,375 6.3% 83,257 2.7% 307,438 9.9%
Wyoming 19,332 6.6% 3,555 1.2% 24,403 8.3%

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 August 1; regular state UI initial claims are for the week ending August 8. PUA continued claims are for the week ending July 25; PUA initial claims are for the weeks ending August 1 and August 8. “Other programs” are continued claims in other programs for the week ending July 25. 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, August 13, 2020.

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With the pandemic and economic crisis persisting through the summer, workers have been experiencing long-term unemployment. As a result, workers are increasingly relying on PEUC, the 13 additional weeks of benefits available to workers who have exhausted the 26 weeks of regular benefits. However, even the cumulative 39 weeks of benefits have not been enough for some workers, so policymakers should extend the valuable PEUC program. There is also an Extended Benefits program, which provides another 13 weeks of benefits to workers in states that meet a threshold of high unemployment. Currently, the requirements for this program have been triggered in every state, meaning that workers who have exhausted PEUC can turn to the Extended Benefits program. There are now 126,000 workers claiming Extended Benefits, the highest number so far this recession.

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. Black women in particular, who are paid less than white men to do essential work, 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. State and local government workers across the country have already lost their jobs. 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 5 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. Rather than going on vacation, Congress must act urgently to provide relief for unemployed workers and the economy.

Table 1

New and cumulative jobless claims by state: Number of workers either receiving unemployment benefits or waiting for approval during the week ending August 8

Regular UI Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Other programs
State Most recent continued claims claims: 08/01/2020 Most recent week initial claims: 08/08/2020 Most recent continued claims claims: 07/25/2020 Total initial claims – most recent 2 weeks Most recent continued claims: 07/25/2020 Total receiving UI or waiting for approval*
Alabama 60,914 7,008  40,802  4,764  74,937  188,425
Alaska 33,901 4,822  17,051  1,124  4,990  61,888
Arizona 212,889 12,283  317,680  41,748  19,902  604,502
Arkansas 60,167 5,472  119,977  21,201  28,509  235,326
California 2,984,954 213,482  2,543,133  367,699  355,234  6,464,502
Colorado 201,119 6,077  75,616  16,633  12,058  311,503
Connecticut 232,364 7,453  67,122  3,606  13,991  324,536
Delaware 39,764 1,634  9,251  550  2,894  54,093
District of Columbia 68,445 1,630  13,953  738  3,134  87,900
Florida 531,130 55,106  –  23,504  54,698  664,438
Georgia 578,158 62,279  336,623  16,931  1,178  995,169
Hawaii 124,957 5,458  87,688  5,663  490  224,256
Idaho 19,046 3,057  16,372  331  5,875  44,681
Illinois 627,271 22,387  136,738  8,219  44,820  839,435
Indiana 191,613 10,549  141,990  14,021  9,200  367,373
Iowa 92,853 5,282  14,833  2,778  18,192  133,938
Kansas 81,930 11,345  100,634  14,699  16,442  225,050
Kentucky 141,539 17,272  20,425  4,892  368  184,496
Louisiana 291,001 9,919  159,251  9,960  4,224  474,355
Maine 49,243 1,581  26,417  748  6,173  84,162
Maryland 180,831 7,633  253,450  10,682  15,340  467,936
Massachusetts 450,888 14,181  438,596  18,515  50,332  972,512
Michigan 522,491 14,462  778,032  27,611  155,468  1,498,064
Minnesota 264,267 9,337  61,289  644  38,207  373,744
Mississippi 135,045 5,038  52,950  6,127  8,778  207,938
Missouri 140,524 8,131  64,063  3,244  31,455  247,417
Montana 27,912 1,611  43,087  3,344  3,621  79,575
Nebraska 37,643 2,640  23,437  2,306  5,524  71,550
Nevada 339,900 20,642  128,190  31,101  16,803  536,636
New Hampshire 54,259 2,430  19,626  1,151  4,156  81,622
New Jersey 423,081 13,003  422,417  30,690  72,015  961,206
New Mexico 93,933 6,518  79,140  4,356  5,979  189,926
New York 1,448,349 52,092  1,297,114  71,142  131,549  3,000,246
North Carolina 234,405 13,635  192,247  20,825  205,863  666,975
North Dakota 23,503 842  4,796  3,160  4,377  36,678
Ohio 350,702 20,090  319,350  54,968  44,288  789,398
Oklahoma 118,131 4,673  –  2,371  1,431  126,606
Oregon 190,110 6,251  93,206  29,639  45,204  364,410
Pennsylvania 675,346 26,534  954,372  127,934  58,206  1,842,392
Rhode Island 55,411 3,305  61,456  18,926  10,493  149,591
South Carolina 168,375 5,921  72,208  12,243  21,009  279,756
South Dakota 14,428 911  4,081  337  654  20,411
Tennessee 217,968 10,036  146,232  8,278  8,018  390,532
Texas 1,237,387 51,476  248,901  32,316  55,937  1,626,017
Utah 57,833 2,913  7,670  1,596  6,687  76,699
Vermont 33,099 860  9,115  1,212  1,244  45,530
Virginia 263,336 14,761  244,324  16,415  43,361  582,197
Washington 374,142 23,787  141,092  9,197  73,451  621,669
West Virginia 62,488 1,837  –  –  1,394  65,719
Wisconsin 182,121 14,254  77,901  5,356  27,806  307,438
Wyoming 17,149 2,183  3,011  544  1,516  24,403

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 August 1; regular state UI initial claims are for the week ending August 8. PUA continued claims are for the week ending July 25; PUA initial claims are for the weeks ending August 1 and August 8. “Other programs” are continued claims in other programs for the week ending July 25. 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, August 13, 2020.

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Notes

1. That total is 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 the Department of Labor (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.

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