Unemployment Insurance Claims Reach Another Record High

Seasonally adjusted initial UI claims reached an unheard mark of 6,648,000 for the week that ended on March 28, 2020. This more than doubled last week’s record of 3,283,000, which has been revised upward to 3,307,000. The initial claims over these past two weeks are as large as the first 28 weeks, or almost 7 months, of the Great Recession’s initial weekly claims.
In the state of Texas, the numbers for the last two weeks are similarly striking, as seen in the figure to the right below. Whereas the national data are seasonally adjusted, the Texas data are not. This past week there were 275,597 new claims in Texas, up 120,171 from the previous week’s initial claims of 155,426. These two weeks of claims were equal in size to the first 31 weeks of initial claims during the Great Recession. We also see that the spike in initial claims attributable to Hurricane Harvey of 63,788 is dwarfed by the claims of either of the past two weeks.

The map below presents the not seasonally adjusted initial UI claims for the week ending March 28. California tops the list with 878,727 unadjusted initial claims with 15.1% of the total 5,823,917 unadjusted claims. Pennsylvania topped the list last week and is second with 405,880 initial claims.

New York was third with 366,303, Michigan was fourth with 311,086, and Texas was fifth with its 275,597 unadjusted initial claims. In the prior two weeks, the states reported that the job losses were concentrated in the Hospitality and Leisure industries, but this week the states reported that more industries were impacted, including Transportation and Warehousing; Manufacturing; and Retail Trade. (Click on any state to see the number of initial claims, the share of total claims and the percent increase in claims.)

As shown, this current economic episode is unique. The uncertainty about the future course of the coronavirus and the associated uncertainty on the restrictions on economic activity will continue to increase the number of unemployed workers.


Posted: April 03, 2020 by Dennis W. Jansen, Carlos I. Navarro, Andrew J. Rettenmaier