Bethany Blankley | The Center Square
Unemployment claims increased by 33 percent in the first two weeks of March, according to a report published Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor.
“During the week ending March 14, the increase in initial claims are clearly attributable to impacts from the COVID-19 virus,” the report states. “A number of states specifically cited COVID-19 related layoffs, while many states reported increased layoffs in service related industries broadly and in the accommodation and food services industries specifically, as well as in the transportation and warehousing industry, whether COVID-19 was identified directly or not.”
Governors of many U.S. states and cities have banned dining-in at restaurants and bars. Many non-grocery retail outlets have either closed during the pandemic or reduced hours. Professional sports suspended their seasons and many others in the entertainment industry have cancelled events.
In response, many states are adjusting restrictions on when those who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus can start received benefits.
President Donald Trump is also working with Congress on an aid package that would send $1,000 to every American adult.
In the week ending March 14, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 281,000, an increase of 70,000 from the previous week’s unrevised level of 211,000, the highest level for initial claims since Sept. 2, 2017, the report states. The 4-week moving average was 232,250, an increase of 16,500 from the previous week’s revised average, also the highest level since Jan. 27, 2018.
The 33 percent week-to-week increase was larger than the labor market reported during the Great Recession, the report adds.
“Increased layoffs in service-related industries broadly and in the accommodation and food services industries, specifically, as well as in the transportation and warehousing industry” were impacted by the virus, the report notes.
The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending Feb. 29 were in Alaska (2.7), New Jersey (2.7), Connecticut (2.5), Montana (2.4), Pennsylvania (2.4), Rhode Island (2.4), West Virginia (2.4), Illinois (2.3), California (2.2), Minnesota (2.2), and Puerto Rico (2.2).
The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending March 7 were in California (+1,707), Texas (+1,663), Washington (+846), North Carolina (+808), and Florida (+472), while the largest decreases were in New York (-17,173), Ohio (-3,371), Georgia (-969), Virginia (-740), and Wisconsin (-606).
“The unemployment claims that will be released next Thursday are expected to be among the worst in recent history,” Andrew Soergel, USA Today senior economics writer, reports.
Despite historically, 50-year low unemployment rates being reported nationally over the last three years, 13 states reported increased unemployment rates in 2019, according to a state employment metrics published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the Rust Belt, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa were among them. Trade conflicts with China, Canada, Mexico and the European Union contributed to financial uncertainty in 2019, impacting agricultural and manufacturing export markets vital to many state economies.
The December 2019 national unemployment rate was the best it had ever been since the late 1960s. Thirteen states reported unemployment rates below 3 percent, while 23 ended 2019 with rates above the national average.
Unemployment rates declined in 32 states in 2019, with rates unchanged in Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
In 2019, South Carolina, Utah and Vermont tied for the lowest unemployment rates in the country at 2.3 percent, with North Dakota (2.4 percent) and Colorado (2.5 percent) completing the top five. Alaska held the highest unemployment rate of 6.1 percent, followed by Mississippi (5.7 percent), West Virginia (5 percent), Louisiana (4.9 percent), New Mexico (4.7 percent), Arizona (4.6 percent) and Pennsylvania (4.5 percent).