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Initial Jobless Claims Vary Widely Across States

COVID 19-related layoffs are varying widely across the states. A useful measure of the severity of layoffs to date is total initial jobless claims in the first four weeks of the slowdown (from March 20 to April 10) as a share of total employment covered by unemployment insurance at the start of the downturn (on March 13).

This share also provides a rough approximation of the underlying unemployment rate by state. (Note that some self-employed workers not traditionally covered by the UI program are included in this cycle.)

Nationally, 13.1% of all employees covered by unemployment insurance filed an initial jobless claim in the four week period. Data for the most recent week are not yet available but is expected to push the current share to at least 15%.

The rates vary from a low of 5.7% in South Dakota to 23.0% in both Hawaii and Michigan. (*** Note: Florida has only three weeks of available data.) The lowest shares are generally in the center of the country and highest shares along the coasts.

There is also a fairly consistent relationship between the severity of a state’s COVID 19 conditions and its share of jobless claims. However, New York has the highest incidence of COVID 19 yet has a jobless share only a few percentage points above the nation.

This variation suggests that geography will play an important role in the path to recovery once the rebound is underway.

Mark C. Snead is President and Economist at RegionTrack.

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