Unemployment Rate in the US Hits Historic High Since Great Depression

Every month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases an Employment Situation Summary for the United States. The summary released on May 8th, 2020, includes national unemployment estimates for the month of April 2020. The unemployment data depicted below are seasonally adjusted and are reported by the BLS. The last reported data point for the state of Texas is March 2020.
The unemployment rate for the U.S. increased to a staggering 14.7%, the highest recorded since the Great Depression, when the unemployment rate topped 20%. In March 2020, the national unemployment rate had increased to 4.4% from 3.5% in February, so in the last two months we have seen an 11.2 percentage point increase in the unemployment rate. Texas’ unemployment rate increased from 3.5% in February to 4.7% in March.  The April estimates for state unemployment will become available on May 22.
However, we have some early indicators of the situation in Texas.  The ‘insured unemployment rate’ in Texas was 7.8% for the week ending April 18.  For comparison, the national rate was 12.2%. (The insured unemployment rate is the percentage of workers covered by unemployment insurance who are receiving benefits.)

Unemployment Claims Over the Last Six Weeks Total
Unemployment Insurance data is reported by the US Department of Labor (DOL). For the week that ended on May 2, 2020, 3,169,000 workers filed unemployment insurance (UI) claims. The revised count for the week ending April 25 was 3,846,000 claims. The highest initial claims were recorded the week ending March 28, when they reached 6,867,000. In the last seven weeks, over 33 million initial claims have been made.

The story is similar in Texas. Texas reported 247,179 UI claims for the week ending May 2 after reaching a record of 315,167 claims during the week ending April 4. A total of 1,803,059 initial claims have been filed over the last seven weeks.  (As an aside, the national data are seasonally adjusted, but not the Texas data.)

For the week ending April 25, the seasonally adjusted number of insured unemployed workers (the number of unemployed workers who are receiving unemployment benefits) was 22,647,000 and the associated insured unemployment rate was 15.5%.  In Texas, the number of insured unemployed workers for the week ending April 18 was 962,122, for an insured unemployment rate of 7.8%. The insured unemployment rate in Texas was the sixth lowest rate among the states for this week.  (The state level data on the number of insured unemployed workers lags the national numbers by one week, and are not seasonally adjusted.)  

The map below presents the states’ not-seasonally-adjusted initial UI claims for the week ending May 2. California had the highest number of new claims at 318,064 or 11.16% of the total 2,849,090 unadjusted claims. As noted, Texas reported 247,179 claims which was the second highest. Georgia’s 226,884 claims were the third highest. The previous week, Georgia also had the third highest number of claims. New York had the fourth highest number of claims at 195,242.  Across all states and U.S. Territories, unadjusted initial claims were down 18.5% from the prior week. (Click on any state in the figure below to see the number of initial claims, the share of total claims and the percent increase in claims.)


Posted: May 08, 2020 by Dennis W. Jansen, Carlos I. Navarro, Andrew J. Rettenmaier