About the Data
The primary source of these data are reports by the states submitted to the U.S. Departments of Labor and of the U.S. Treasury. We invite comments and corrections but but users should not expect that data is corrected from any errors of submissions, such as double counting or zeroes. Weekly claims data will be updated on Thursday each week, and monthly data will be updated by the end of the following month (for instance, August data will be up by the end of September).
- “State” vs. “Federal”: State claims refer to the permanent basic package of up to twenty-six weeks of unemployment available to regular workers in taxable employment. Federal programs cover those not eligible currently for state benefits either because they are long-term unemployed or because they are independent contractors, or did not earn enough to collect state UI. State benefits are paid for through state payroll taxes, and federal benefits are paid for through state taxes.
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA): CARES Act program that expanded states’ ability to provide unemployment insurance for many workers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including for workers who are not ordinarily eligible for unemployment benefits, including independent contractors, self-employed, students and youth, and others who may be unable to prove prior-year income. The program is federally funded, but applicants apply through state systems where eligibility is determined. Read more here.
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC): CARES Act program that extends eligibility for unemployment benefits by up to thirteen weeks for anyone who exhausts their state-level maximum week benefit. Read more here.
- Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC): CARES Act program that automatically provides an additional $600 in federally funded benefits per week, applied to all weekly benefits (regular and PUA), from the week ending April 4, 2020 through the week ending July 25, 2020.
- Worksharing: Worksharing, also known as short-time compensation (STC), allows employers to reduce hours of work for employees rather than laying off workers. Employees experiencing a reduction in hours are allowed to collect a percentage of their unemployment compensation benefits to replace a portion of their lost wages. Read more here.
- Initial claims: New application for unemployment benefits or to restart unemployment benefits after a subsequent period of unemployment benefits within a benefit year.
- Continued claims or insured unemployment: Ongoing claims for unemployment benefits including weeks that are paid, and weeks that are pending or serving a disqualification.
- Weeks claimed: The total number of such continued claims accumulated during a period
- Weeks compensated: An unemployment made for a week of partial or total unemployment is considered a “compensated week.” The total number of weeks compensated in a year divided by fifty-two represents the average number of ongoing beneficiaries receiving payments per week.
- First payments: The “first payment” represents the first payment for unemployment received by an eligible unemployed individual. It is used as a proxy for the number of beneficiaries for a program.
- Seasonally adjusted (SA) versus non-seasonally adjusted (NSA): Seasonal adjustments account for fluctuations throughout the year that are driven by various trends in weather, holidays, school calendars, etc. This allows the data to highlight cyclical trends aside from these regular fluctuations. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been relying more on the NSA numbers, since it is unclear to what degree current trends are impacted by regular seasonal fluctuations.
- Advance versus prior week claims: As per the Department of Labor, “Advance claims are not directly comparable to claims reported in prior weeks. Advance claims are reported by the state liable for paying the unemployment compensation, whereas previous weeks reported claims reflect claimants by state of residence.” Advance claims can be thought of as an estimated figure, whereas prior week is the adjusted, final, figure that is posted on a weekly delay. In this dashboard, we use advance claims only for the most recently released weekly data, whereas all previous weeks’ data are “prior week.”
- Nonmonetary timeliness: An official federal standard representing the number of days between the detection of an issue related to eligibility other than the amount earned and a determination of that issue. Separate rates are reported for separation and nonseparation issues. Core performance measures can be found here.
- Separation: An eligibility issue related to the reason that an individual became unemployed, such as whether they were laid off, fired, or quit.
- Nonseparation: Eligibility issues other than how much a worker earned or why they became unemployed. These include whether an issue is available for work, refused a job offer, or failed to search work.
- Benefit exhaustions: The number of individuals who have reached the maximum amount of time that they are able to collect benefits, and have received their final payment.
- National payments: The amount paid for all programs by the U.S. Treasury.
- Lost Wage Assistance: An executive action put forth by the Trump administration on August 8, 2020 that diverted FEMA funding to states to administer federal supplemental UI payments, amounting to $300 per person per week, for a maximum of six weeks, and a maximum of $44 billion nationally. Read more here.
About the Project
The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked an unprecedented economic crisis, during which tens of millions of Americans have relied on state and federal unemployment benefits as a lifeline of economic support. While unemployment programs are delivering billions of dollars of aid to families and the economy, the process of applying for and receiving that aid has been frustrating, with the millions seeking aid experiencing excruciating wait times at the hands of overwhelmed state systems. The TCF–New America pandemic unemployment insurance dashboard seeks to shed light on the impacts of and challenges facing this critical safety net.
Weekly Statement On The Latest Numbers
May 6, 2021
In response to the release of the weekly unemployment numbers, Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation and one of the nation’s leading experts on unemployment insurance (UI), released the following statement:
“Today’s unemployment report shows the benefits of a strengthening economy and the critical role that unemployment aid has played in digging us out of the COVID crisis. As the economy has revved up, new unemployment applications are slowly coming back to earth. New claims fell for the 4th consecutive week, falling to 606,000 after a big decline in state claims (505,000, down 70,500 last week) and a smaller drop in PUA initial applications (101,000, down 21,000 last week).
“Despite the declines in claims, political leaders like the governor of Montana have concluded that generous federal unemployment benefits are holding back the economic recovery, and in the case of Montana are backing out of successful federal programs or in other cases complaining about them. But a deeper dive into the data released today doesn’t back up the argument that unemployment benefits are hindering employment or economic growth.
In the 13 states with the lowest unemployment rates, continued UI claims across all programs are down 26 percent since their 2021 peak on February 20. In contrast, in the 13 states with the highest unemployment rates, claims have only declined by 17 percent. In other words, when the labor market recovers and job opportunities abound, workers will exit UI benefits for available jobs. For example, in Alabama, where the average UI benefit is $583 per week (including $300 from FPUC), UI claims have declined 31 percent in an economy with an unemployment rate of 3.8 percent. In neighboring Louisiana, where benefits are $488, claims have dropped only 4 percent in an economy where the tourism slump has left the state with an unemployment rate of 7.3 percent. It’s the jobs climate, not UI benefits, which are driving the pace at which Americans return to work.
“Cutting off unemployment benefits early would undermine that economic progress and cause needless personal suffering. There are still 16 million workers filing a continuing claim for unemployment benefits. This includes 3.8 million on state benefits, which inched up 2,500 last week after declining for five consecutive weeks to a pandemic low. There are 5.0 million on PEUC (down 221,000) and 6.9 million on PUA (down 112,000), the second straight week of decline in these large federal programs still covering nearly 12 million Americans. It will take many months of economic recovery, vaccine progress, and rebuilding of the child care infrastructure before these workers are able to find suitable work. Until then, enhanced unemployment benefits will not only sustain jobless families, but continue to power a robust recovery through greater consumer spending. Congress was right to continue these benefits through September, and should be sure to maintain that aid until the barriers to job seeking are removed.”
Access More Data
- To see a graph of state data over time (when available), click on a state’s bar on the right-hand-side bar chart.
- You may download the data in the charts above directly by clicking the download button adjacent to each map, or download the entire workbook for all graphs in the tableau (bottom right), or see the full data set here.
- For those who want to dive even deeper into the data, TCF partnered with Community Legal Services in Philadelphia to make available an expansive data explorer that contains historical data on twenty-five or more variables, by state. Data is also downloadable.
Join the conversation or pose any inquiries by visiting the UI data google group.
Read TCF Publications on UI Data
- Delay in Extending Unemployment Aid Has Shortchanged Workers $17 Billion in January, February 2, 2021
- 12 Million Workers Facing Jobless Benefit Cliff on December 26, November 18, 2020
- Six Months into Pandemic, Just over Half of Applicants Received Unemployment Insurance Payments, November 9, 2020
- Trump’s Lost Wage Assistance Program No Substitute for Federal Unemployment Benefits, August 20, 2020
- Who Is Receiving Unemployment Insurance, and Who Just Lost $600 per Week?, August 7, 2020
- HEALS Act Would Strip $90 Billion in Unemployment Payments, Crush 25+ Million Jobless Families, July 27, 2020
- More than 25 Million Americans Are About to Lose an Essential $600-a-Week Unemployment Insurance Benefit, July 8, 2020
- Unemployment Payouts Accelerated during April and May—but Are Still Too Slow, June 2, 2020
- New Data Show Unemployment Programs Delivering Aid, but Struggling with Record Demand, April 29, 2020