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 ClaimsGreat Recession, Peak Weekly ClaimsWeek Ending March 21, 2020, Total Weekly Claims
United States482,266956,7912,898,450
Alabama6,67920,8949,490
Alaska1,7304,1608,225
Arizona5,92211,17829,268
Arkansas5,07710,4898,958
California58,69595,705186,809
Colorado3,5257,28419,429
Connecticut5,10213,02325,098
Delaware1,2353,05110,720
District of Columbia4261,28713,473
Florida17,96740,40374,021
Georgia14,15641,52211,746
Hawaii1,7933,2118,904
Idaho2,7497,30313,314
Illinois17,76034,524114,663
Indiana10,89128,61661,635
Iowa5,29313,86541,890
Kansas3,91318,06423,687
Kentucky7,97425,05748,847
Louisiana3,78328,08072,620
Maine1,6785,63421,197
Maryland5,77512,03141,882
Massachusetts8,88122,028147,995
Michigan22,01376,702129,298
Minnesota6,72015,195116,438
Mississippi3,4779,4206,723
Missouri9,22721,41340,508
Montana1,4333,83714,704
Nebraska1,6373,78015,668
Nevada4,7658,94593,036
New Hampshire1,4133,59421,878
New Jersey12,25524,095155,454
New Mexico1,4783,30817,187
New York24,03354,80580,334
North Carolina17,17556,64793,587
North Dakota6102,3325,968
Ohio16,94540,829187,784
Oklahoma2,8676,19617,720
Oregon9,31620,91622,824
Pennsylvania28,26259,669378,908
Puerto Rico3,5197,2671,471
Rhode Island1,8553,98735,436
South Carolina7,73022,54831,064
South Dakota4631,3821,703
Tennessee8,39830,75339,096
Texas18,09249,398155,657
Utah2,1125,20519,591
Vermont1,0162,8603,667
Virgin Islands6523558
Virginia7,09821,86246,885
Washington11,09126,075133,478
West Virginia1,7474,3683,435
Wisconsin16,02535,88550,957
Wyoming5651,4832,339

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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