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The view of a business in Queens, New York. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
COVID-19

Another 4.4 million Americans have filed unemployment claims

Janet Nguyen Apr 23, 2020
The view of a business in Queens, New York. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

About 4.4 million more Americans filed unemployment claims last week, bringing the number of new jobless claims since the COVID-19 crisis hit to 26 million.

This has erased all job gains since the Great Recession.

*Figures have been seasonally adjusted.

In response to the pandemic, Congress has approved a nearly $500 billion COVID-19 aid package that would provide funds to small businesses and hospitals. However, the package does not include extra funding that would go directly to state and local governments. States are the ones tasked with providing unemployment benefits and many of them are now faced with dwindling funds

*Figures have not been seasonally adjusted. Week of April 18 claims are “advance” claims, which are reported by the state liable for paying the unemployment compensation. Meanwhile, previous weeks’ reported claims reflect claimants by state of residence.

California was the state with the highest number of unemployment claims last week, with more than 533,000 residents filing for unemployment benefits. It’s now been approved to borrow billions from the federal government . 

Following California, Florida had more than 505,000 unemployment claims. After weeks of not implementing strict measures, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order at the beginning of this month. 

Georgia also topped the list, with more than 243,000 unemployment claims. With many residents out of work, Gov. Brian Kemp is allowing businesses to start operating again this week — a move that’s been criticized by President Donald Trump and public health experts.  

West Virginia, Connecticut, Louisiana, Florida and Alaska had the biggest increases, percentage-wise. On April 9, Alaska allowed residents to file unemployment claim certifications every week, instead of every two weeks. 

*Figures have not been seasonally adjusted. Calculations based on the percentage increase between advance claims for week ending April 18 and week ending April 11.

Meanwhile, the states with the lowest number of unemployment claims included Wyoming (which had more than 3,300 claims), South Dakota (more than 5,100 claims), and Vermont (6,400 claims).

*Figures have not been seasonally adjusted and exclude the Virgin Islands. Week of April 18 claims are “advance” claims, which are reported by the state liable for paying the unemployment compensation. Meanwhile, previous weeks’ reported claims reflect claimants by state of residence.

While the unemployment benefits that have been distributed have brought much-needed relief to some workers, the benefits vary widely.

“You see anything from $213 on average in Mississippi, to $555 in Massachusetts,” Michele Evermore at the National Employment Law Project told Marketplace.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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