The Century Foundation (TCF) and New America today launched a new interactive unemployment insurance (UI) dashboard that aggregates troves of state and federal data to shed new light on the effectiveness of the nation’s UI systems amid the current economic crisis. The dashboard is intended as a one-stop-shop for researchers, policymakers, advocates and the public to learn more about the impact that UI is having on families and the economy; the challenges the system faces, including the timeliness and generosity of benefits; and the demographics of benefit recipients.
The rollout of the dashboard follows months of unprecedented job losses across the country, with new UI claims surpassing the one million mark for 18 straight weeks. Currently, the UI safety net is delivering $15 billion in benefits each week to more than 25 million households, in large part thanks to provisions in the CARES Act to expand and enhance the program. Despite UI serving as an essential lifeline for families forced to stay home due to COVID-19, many state systems were wholly ill-equipped to respond to the crisis, in turn leaving countless workers exasperated by antiquated and burdensome technology, staffing shortages, payment and processing delays, and meager state benefits.
“For millions of Americans, unemployment insurance over the last four months has been both life-saving and migraine-inducing,” said Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation. “You simply cannot overstate the positive impact UI has had on families forced out of work through no fault of their own. You also cannot overstate how desperately we need to overhaul our UI systems in order to make them run simpler and smoother for customers and to enhance benefits and expand eligibility on a permanent basis. We hope this new dashboard tells both sides of that story: the successes of UI, as well as its continuing challenges.”
The dashboard will be continuously updated as new state and local data become available, including every Friday following the release of the Labor Department’s weekly unemployment report. In designing the online tool, researchers at TCF and New America’s New Practice Lab solicited the advice and input of many of the nation’s leading experts on unemployment insurance including the National Employment Law Project, Employ America, Community Legal Services, Policy Matters Ohio, and Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality. In addition to several types of data visualizations, the dashboard includes full raw data sets for each chart and image, as well as additional state details based on those data.
The dashboard has six main data components, which users can navigate to directly:
“You cannot fix problems you cannot see. Getting real-time unemployment data that shows the experience of Americans in applying and getting these benefits is a critical part of making sure we build a safety-net that really works for people when they need it most,” said Elizabeth Garlow, co-founder of the New Practice Lab at New America, a lab focused on the nexus of design and delivery of policies focused on family economic security and wellbeing. “Americans are experiencing unprecedented job loss, and sharing real-time unemployment data presents an opportunity to identify and address holes in the system now, while bringing together a group of experts to collectively weigh in at this critical moment.”