Close to one in four workers are either on unemployment benefits or are waiting to receive them: Congress must take action

by nyljaouadi1
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Over the last week, I have been consumed with pain and anger over the police murders of George Floyd and so many other Black people—murders rooted in a long history of white supremacy and lynchings in the United States. That long history of white supremacy has profound effects on the labor market. For example, recessions hit Black workers harder than white workers because of dynamics like occupational segregation, discrimination, and other labor market disparities rooted in systemic racism. In this post, I am going to talk about today’s release of unemployment insurance data. These data highlight the deep recession we are now in—a recession that will exacerbate existing racial inequalities by causing greater job loss and income declines in Black households than white households.

Last week, 2.2 million workers applied for unemployment benefits. This is the 11th week in a row that initial unemployment claims have been more than twice the worst week of the Great Recession.

Of the 2.2 million who applied for unemployment benefits last week, 1.6 million applied for regular state unemployment insurance (UI), and 0.6 million applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). PUA is the new federal program for workers who are out of work because of the virus but who are not eligible for regular UI (e.g., the self-employed). At this point, only 36 states and Puerto Rico are reporting PUA claims. This means PUA claims are still being undercounted.

37.2 million workers are either receiving unemployment benefits, have been approved and are waiting for benefits, or have applied recently and are waiting for approval, May 30, 2020

Regular state UI: Continued claims Regular state UI: Initial claims PUA: Continued claims PUA: Initial claims Other programs: Continued claims Total
Cumulative 19,295,200 3,520,604 10,740,918 3,164,992 435,871 0
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The data below can be saved or copied directly into Excel.