Economists' Outlook

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Where is Unemployment Slowing Faster During the Pandemic?

A deeper look at the Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims

According to the latest release from the Labor Department, there were nearly 18 million total unemployment claims in the week ending on April 18. However, 22 million people filed a new unemployment claim in the previous 4 weeks – Apr 11, Apr 4, Mar 28, and Mar 21. Thus, more than 4 million first filers have likely already found a job. Although millions of people lost their job due to the growing spread of the coronavirus, a surge of companies are hiring additional employees to accommodate increased demands. Most of these companies are included in the following industries: health care, food and grocery stores, retail, delivery, and telecommunications.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the claims for unemployment insurance every week. The report includes the number of initial claims (new claims), continued claims (total claims), and the insured unemployment rate at the national and state levels. This blog post takes a deeper look at the relationship between these measures and provides some additional insights into the labor market for each state.

New, Total and Recovered Claims

Let’s first understand what is the difference between new and total claims. New claims are filed by those that lost their job and job leavers to notify the state unemployment insurance office that a spell of unemployment has begun. In most states, after a week of their new claim, job-losers are eligible for payments. After that week’s delay, job-losers file continued claims (total claims) for additional weeks of benefits. That being said, we should expect the number of total claims every week to increase approximately by the number of new claims filed a week earlier.

However, in most of the states, it seems that some first filers found already a job. We compared the number of new claims from March 15th – April 11th with the total claims reported in the week ending April 18. We found out that, in 44 states across the country, new claims in that specific period exceeded total claims. In other words, there were not as many total claims in the week ending in April 18 as the total new claims of the previous 4 weeks.

For instance, in Alabama, 48% of the first filers seem to have already found a job. Although there were 276,130 new claims from March 15th – April 11th, the number of total claims reported in the week ending on April 18 was 142,380. Thus, it is estimated that nearly 133,750 first filers likely already found a job. Respectively, in California, nearly 33% of the first filers likely found a job. Nearly 930,000 people who filed an initial unemployment claim in that specific 4 week period seem to have already found a job.

Here are the top 10 states where unemployment is slowing faster:

U.S. Map: Top 10 States Where Unemployment is Slowing Faster During the Pandemic

See below the number of new, total, and recovered cases by state.

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