Unemployment Insurance and COVID-19 by Jonathan Drapkin, President/CEO, Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress
Across the country, states are experiencing a historic number of unemployment insurance claims amid the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, during the week of March 15 – March 21, there were 3,283,000 unemployment insurance claims filed. This represents an increase of more than 3 million claims over the previous week, and smashes the previous record of 695,000 set in 1982. The table below shows the 15 states in the U.S. with the highest number of unemployment Insurance claims for the week ending March 21st, and the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases as of March 21st.
Interestingly, Pennsylvania had the highest number of insurance claims of any state by a significant margin. The reasons for the high number of claims in Pennsylvania are not entirely clear at this time, but there are some possible explanations. According to the Wall Street Journal, a representative from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor said that Pennsylvania relaxed the requirement that claimants be actively seeking employment to qualify, and that Pennsylvania’s system did not experience any major disruptions such as those reported in New York.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, virtually every state is reporting that the COVID-19 pandemic is driving up the number of unemployment insurance claims. The chart below shows every state’s rank by number of confirmed COVID-19 cases plotted against every state’s rank by number of unemployment insurance claims. This chart is meant to be a visual representation of the relationship between the number of COVID-19 cases and the number of unemployment insurance claims. The general relationship appears to be that the number of COVID-19 cases has a positive correlation with the number of insurance claims. However, it should be noted that the population of each state is an important variable that significantly impacts the potential number of COVID-19 cases and unemployment insurance claims in each state. States with large populations will tend to have more COVID-19 cases and more insurance claims just by virtue of having more residents.