A Visual Guide to Unemployment Benefit Claims

State Tax

On March 26, weekly initial unemployment benefit claims hit the highest level in U.S. history, with five times as many filed as during the worst week of the Great Recession. 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.

How Quickly Have Unemployment Claims Risen in Your State? Unemployment insurance claims, increase in unemployment claims, increase in unemployment insurance claims

Our interactive tool allows you to see how initial unemployment compensation claims in each state compare to average and peak weekly claims during the Great Recession. States vary in how quickly they process and report claims, so some states are “ahead” of their peers in reporting substantial increases, and differentials across states may be questions of timing rather than in the effects of the economic contraction.

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.

Table 1.  Weekly Unemployment Claims During the Great Recession and 2020 Coronavirus
  Great Recession, Average Weekly Claims Great Recession, Peak Weekly Claims Week Ending March 21, 2020, Total Weekly Claims
United States 482,266 956,791 2,898,450
Alabama 6,679 20,894 9,490
Alaska 1,730 4,160 8,225
Arizona 5,922 11,178 29,268
Arkansas 5,077 10,489 8,958
California 58,695 95,705 186,809
Colorado 3,525 7,284 19,429
Connecticut 5,102 13,023 25,098
Delaware 1,235 3,051 10,720
District of Columbia 426 1,287 13,473
Florida 17,967 40,403 74,021
Georgia 14,156 41,522 11,746
Hawaii 1,793 3,211 8,904
Idaho 2,749 7,303 13,314
Illinois 17,760 34,524 114,663
Indiana 10,891 28,616 61,635
Iowa 5,293 13,865 41,890
Kansas 3,913 18,064 23,687
Kentucky 7,974 25,057 48,847
Louisiana 3,783 28,080 72,620
Maine 1,678 5,634 21,197
Maryland 5,775 12,031 41,882
Massachusetts 8,881 22,028 147,995
Michigan 22,013 76,702 129,298
Minnesota 6,720 15,195 116,438
Mississippi 3,477 9,420 6,723
Missouri 9,227 21,413 40,508
Montana 1,433 3,837 14,704
Nebraska 1,637 3,780 15,668
Nevada 4,765 8,945 93,036
New Hampshire 1,413 3,594 21,878
New Jersey 12,255 24,095 155,454
New Mexico 1,478 3,308 17,187
New York 24,033 54,805 80,334
North Carolina 17,175 56,647 93,587
North Dakota 610 2,332 5,968
Ohio 16,945 40,829 187,784
Oklahoma 2,867 6,196 17,720
Oregon 9,316 20,916 22,824
Pennsylvania 28,262 59,669 378,908
Puerto Rico 3,519 7,267 1,471
Rhode Island 1,855 3,987 35,436
South Carolina 7,730 22,548 31,064
South Dakota 463 1,382 1,703
Tennessee 8,398 30,753 39,096
Texas 18,092 49,398 155,657
Utah 2,112 5,205 19,591
Vermont 1,016 2,860 3,667
Virgin Islands 65 235 58
Virginia 7,098 21,862 46,885
Washington 11,091 26,075 133,478
West Virginia 1,747 4,368 3,435
Wisconsin 16,025 35,885 50,957
Wyoming 565 1,483 2,339

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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