Updated state-level unemployment claims data: Workers across the country need Congress to increase unemployment benefits

The most recent unemployment insurance (UI) claims data released today show that another 1.3 million people filed for UI benefits last week. However, trends over time should be interpreted with particular caution right now because California data are being imputed since they have temporarily paused their processing of initial claims.

For the past 11 weeks, workers have gone without the extra $600 in weekly UI benefits—which Senate Republicans allowed to expire—and are instead typically receiving around 40% of their pre-virus earnings. This is far too meager, in any state, to sustain workers and their families through lengthy periods of joblessness.

The president’s early August executive memo, intended to give recipients an additional $300 or $400 in UI, instead resulted in reduced benefits and extreme delays—and left many workers ineligible. In some states, even this inadequate additional benefit is still unavailable to workers. For example, New Jersey workers won’t be able to collect additional benefits until October 19. The mixed messages coming from the White House continued last week when President Trump announced, via Twitter, the end of stimulus negotiations with Democratic leaders. When the stock market declined sharply in response, the president backtracked.

These half-measures and empty promises simply will not do when we are facing a massive jobs deficit and an initial recovery that has already slowed substantially. The UI benefits cuts were the first big gash of austerity that will slow the economy’s recovery. The second will be the cutbacks to state and local government spending and employment that will occur without already long-overdue federal fiscal aid. To ensure a strong recovery, Congress must pass a substantial stimulus bill that goes well beyond the meager bill announced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday. The stimulus must include a sizeable increase to UI benefits and aid to state and local government.

To give a sense of how many workers are being left behind, 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). Almost half the states are reporting that more than one in 10 workers are claiming UI. The components of this total are listed in Table 1, although this estimate should be interpreted with caution.1

Three states had more than half a million workers either receiving regular UI benefits or waiting for their claim to be approved: California (3.0 million), New York (0.8 million), and Texas (0.8 million).

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 three states and the District of Columbia, more than one in 10 workers are receiving regular UI benefits or waiting on their claim to be approved: California (15.5%), Hawaii (14.7%), the District of Columbia (11.9%), and Nevada (10.1%).

Nine states reported that more than one in 10 workers are currently claiming PUA: California (18.9%), Hawaii (18.2%), Arizona (13.8%), Michigan (13.5%), New York (13.5%), Kansas (12.9%), Massachusetts (12.8%), Pennsylvania (12.4%), and Rhode Island (10.5%). This underscores the importance of extending benefits to those who would otherwise not have been eligible, including self-employed and low-wage workers and people who are looking for part-time work.

Figure A

Cumulative jobless claims by state: Numbers and shares of workers either receiving unemployment benefits or waiting for approval during the week ending October 10

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 PUA Upper bound* as a share of the labor force
Alabama 29,070 1.3% 44,911 2.0% 145,940 6.5%
Alaska 26,051 7.5% 10,848 3.1% 46,419 13.4%
Arizona 157,983 4.4% 499,543 13.8% 687,886 19.0%
Arkansas 32,448 2.4% 71,136 5.2% 128,301 9.4%
California 3,028,324 15.5% 3,693,588 18.9% 7,550,983 38.7%
Colorado 131,585 4.1% 69,582 2.2% 248,466 7.8%
Connecticut 124,362 6.4% 52,273 2.7% 222,662 11.5%
Delaware 24,796 5.1% 8,140 1.7% 39,817 8.1%
Washington D.C. 49,379 11.9% 15,169 3.7% 75,044 18.1%
Florida 295,505 2.8% 58,657 0.6% 359,956 3.4%
Georgia 464,139 9.0% 297,662 5.8% 762,914 14.8%
Hawaii 98,379 14.7% 121,492 18.2% 220,433 32.9%
Idaho 10,754 1.2% 11,187 1.3% 28,373 3.2%
Illinois 475,063 7.4% 135,248 2.1% 707,577 11.1%
Indiana 143,972 4.2% 199,353 5.9% 368,821 10.9%
Iowa 51,221 2.9% 14,341 0.8% 96,878 5.5%
Kansas 67,116 4.5% 192,964 12.9% 279,252 18.7%
Kentucky 85,228 4.1% 56,395 2.7% 142,071 6.8%
Louisiana 168,216 8.0% 149,267 7.1% 326,798 15.5%
Maine 20,176 2.9% 17,486 2.5% 53,206 7.7%
Maryland 115,624 3.5% 192,420 5.9% 329,006 10.0%
Massachusetts 300,826 7.8% 490,957 12.8% 915,832 23.9%
Michigan 283,459 5.7% 667,056 13.5% 1,085,957 21.9%
Minnesota 149,644 4.8% 43,875 1.4% 257,290 8.2%
Mississippi 55,002 4.3% 32,446 2.5% 103,576 8.1%
Missouri 67,086 2.2% 60,652 1.9% 184,907 5.9%
Montana 19,703 3.7% 38,902 7.2% 63,966 11.9%
Nebraska 18,406 1.8% 38,372 3.7% 61,529 5.9%
Nevada 158,152 10.1% 112,495 7.2% 326,312 20.9%
New Hampshire 32,037 4.1% 16,124 2.1% 52,489 6.7%
New Jersey 275,126 6.0% 410,605 9.0% 822,315 18.0%
New Mexico 69,220 7.2% 41,069 4.3% 127,501 13.3%
New York 793,169 8.3% 1,285,173 13.5% 2,570,639 26.9%
North Carolina 120,382 2.4% 183,776 3.6% 534,182 10.4%
North Dakota 11,866 2.9% 7,604 1.9% 24,869 6.1%
Ohio 218,008 3.7% 469,805 8.1% 762,400 13.1%
Oklahoma 75,672 4.1% 16,747 0.9% 110,133 6.0%
Oregon 129,753 6.2% 123,314 5.9% 291,876 13.9%
Pennsylvania 420,710 6.4% 815,288 12.4% 1,364,420 20.8%
Rhode Island 25,178 4.5% 58,807 10.5% 102,891 18.4%
South Carolina 70,988 3.0% 65,791 2.8% 209,752 8.8%
South Dakota 5,771 1.2% 2,876 0.6% 9,160 2.0%
Tennessee 105,333 3.1% 164,670 4.9% 330,113 9.8%
Texas 764,658 5.4% 299,058 2.1% 1,111,906 7.8%
Utah 23,979 1.5% 6,642 0.4% 40,548 2.5%
Vermont 16,516 4.9% 9,036 2.7% 31,309 9.2%
Virginia 192,483 4.3% 213,551 4.8% 493,013 11.0%
Washington 263,957 6.7% 115,379 2.9% 448,485 11.3%
West Virginia 35,423 4.4% 44,629 5.5% 89,288 11.1%
Wisconsin 124,622 4.0% 48,019 1.5% 216,149 7.0%
Wyoming 7,606 2.6% 2,519 0.9% 12,477 4.2%

*Caution: This is a substantial overestimate. For one thing, initial claims for regular state UI and PUA should be nonoverlapping—that is how DOL has directed agencies to report them—but some individuals are erroneously being counted as being in both programs. Also, some states are including retroactive payments in their continuing PUA claims, which would also lead to double counting. Regular state UI continued claims are for the week ending October 3; PEUC continued claims are for the week ending September 26; regular state UI initial claims are for the week ending October 10. PUA continued claims are for the week ending September 26; PUA initial claims are for the weeks ending October 3 and October 10. “Other programs” are continued claims in other programs for the week ending September 26. A full list of programs 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 the Department of Labor (DOL), https://www.dol.gov/ui/data.pdf and https://oui.doleta.gov/unemploy/claims.asp, October 15, 2020.

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With workers experiencing long-term unemployment as the crisis persists, they are increasingly relying on PEUC, the 13 additional weeks of benefits available to workers who have exhausted the 26 weeks of regular benefits. For the week ending September 26 (the most recent data available), the increase in PEUC claims mirrored the decrease in regular UI claims. This indicates that while there were some initial delays in getting eligible workers on PEUC (including failing to inform them about the program), those appear to be smoothing out.

As we look at the aggregate measures of economic harm, it is 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. At the same time, Black workers face longer delays in receiving UI payments.

Young workers have also been hit particularly hard by this recession, in part because they are disproportionately employed in vulnerable industries like leisure and hospitality. At the same time, young workers who haven’t yet secured a job are not eligible for UI benefits. A job-seeker’s allowance would provide some economic security for these new entrants to the labor market and other excluded groups.

Union representation helps to close racial gaps in UI access. In fact, unionized workers overall are much more likely to apply for and receive UI benefits. This shows how workers, even when facing layoffs, are better able to achieve economic security when they come together in a union. Congress should pass policies that bolster unions in both the public and private sectors. And in the long term, they must strengthen other institutions that allow us, collectively, to promote the general welfare, including unemployment insurance and public health insurance.

Table 1

New and cumulative jobless claims by state: Number of workers either receiving unemployment benefits or waiting for approval during the week ending October 10

Regular UI Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Other programs
State Most recent continued claims: 10/03/2020 Most recent week initial claims: 10/10/2020 Most recent continued claims: 09/26/2020 Total initial claims – most recent 2 weeks Most recent continued claims: 09/26/2020 Total receiving UI or waiting for approval*
Alabama 22,596 6,474 43,057 1,854 71,959 145,940
Alaska 19,885 6,166 10,297 551 9,520 46,419
Arizona 147,979 10,004 425,024 74,519 30,360 687,886
Arkansas 27,383 5,065 63,960 7,176 24,717 128,301
California 2,802,145 226,179 3,493,940 199,648 829,071 7,550,983
Colorado 125,369 6,216 64,741 4,841 47,299 248,466
Connecticut 119,622 4,740 50,939 1,334 46,027 222,662
Delaware 22,889 1,907 7,898 242 6,881 39,817
District of Columbia 47,575 1,804 14,778 391 10,496 75,044
Florida 250,710 44,795 58,657 5,794 359,956
Georgia 410,739 53,400 288,665 8,997 1,113 762,914
Hawaii 93,251 5,128 114,537 6,955 562 220,433
Idaho 7,466 3,288 11,118 69 6,432 28,373
Illinois 428,991 46,072 120,585 14,663 97,266 707,577
Indiana 115,108 28,864 175,287 24,066 25,496 368,821
Iowa 46,577 4,644 12,733 1,608 31,316 96,878
Kansas 52,033 15,083 175,511 17,453 19,172 279,252
Kentucky 79,459 5,769 49,879 6,516 448 142,071
Louisiana 155,586 12,630 134,049 15,218 9,315 326,798
Maine 18,732 1,444 15,903 1,583 15,544 53,206
Maryland 103,990 11,634 182,908 9,512 20,962 329,006
Massachusetts 261,763 39,063 468,488 22,469 124,049 915,832
Michigan 270,553 12,906 637,737 29,319 135,442 1,085,957
Minnesota 140,236 9,408 43,872 3 63,771 257,290
Mississippi 51,805 3,197 28,872 3,574 16,128 103,576
Missouri 57,544 9,542 59,342 1,310 57,169 184,907
Montana 16,982 2,721 36,264 2,638 5,361 63,966
Nebraska 15,272 3,134 34,705 3,667 4,751 61,529
Nevada 147,266 10,886 94,559 17,936 55,665 326,312
New Hampshire 29,901 2,136 15,469 655 4,328 52,489
New Jersey 247,071 28,055 386,957 23,648 136,584 822,315
New Mexico 62,826 6,394 38,854 2,215 17,212 127,501
New York 724,499 68,670 1,225,825 59,348 492,297 2,570,639
North Carolina 101,302 19,080 166,596 17,180 230,024 534,182
North Dakota 10,727 1,139 5,849 1,755 5,399 24,869
Ohio 198,797 19,211 419,625 50,180 74,587 762,400
Oklahoma 70,832 4,840 15,087 1,660 17,714 110,133
Oregon 125,601 4,152 114,360 8,954 38,809 291,876
Pennsylvania 401,195 19,515 772,797 42,491 128,422 1,364,420
Rhode Island 22,234 2,944 46,452 12,355 18,906 102,891
South Carolina 66,104 4,884 58,429 7,362 72,973 209,752
South Dakota 5,389 382 2,792 84 513 9,160
Tennessee 95,188 10,145 156,388 8,282 60,110 330,113
Texas 721,223 43,435 286,831 12,227 48,190 1,111,906
Utah 21,235 2,744 5,194 1,448 9,927 40,548
Vermont 16,011 505 8,955 81 5,757 31,309
Virginia 180,478 12,005 207,497 6,054 86,979 493,013
Washington 239,346 24,611 107,991 7,388 69,149 448,485
West Virginia 33,452 1,971 37,109 7,520 9,236 89,288
Wisconsin 109,792 14,830 42,788 5,231 43,508 216,149
Wyoming 6,763 843 2,250 269 2,352 12,477

*Caution: This is a substantial overestimate. For one thing, initial claims for regular state UI and PUA should be nonoverlapping—that is how DOL has directed agencies to report them—but some individuals are erroneously being counted as being in both programs. Also, some states are including retroactive payments in their continuing PUA claims, which would also lead to double counting. Regular state UI continued claims are for the week ending October 3; PEUC continued claims are for the week ending September 26; regular state UI initial claims are for the week ending October 10. PUA continued claims are for the week ending September 26; PUA initial claims are for the weeks ending October 3 and October 10. “Other programs” are continued claims in other programs for the week ending September 26. A full list of programs 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 the Department of Labor (DOL), https://www.dol.gov/ui/data.pdf and https://oui.doleta.gov/unemploy/claims.asp, October 15, 2020.

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1. Caution: This is a substantial overestimate. For one thing, initial claims for regular state UI and PUA should be nonoverlapping—that is how DOL has directed agencies to report them—but some individuals are erroneously being counted as being in both programs. Also, some states are including retroactive payments in their continuing PUA claims, which would also lead to double-counting. Regular state UI continued claims are for the week ending October 3; PEUC continued claims are for the week ending September 26; regular state UI initial claims are for the week ending October 10. PUA continued claims are for the week ending September 26; PUA initial claims are for the weeks ending October 3 and October 10. “Other programs” are continued claims in other programs for the week ending September 26. A full list of programs can be found in the bottom panel of the table on page 4 at this link: https://www.dol.gov/ui/data.pdf.

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