Feature Monitoring State Unemployment Insurance Claims during the COVID-19 Pandemic
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Last updated January 8, 2021

Since March 14, over 68 million Unemployment Insurance initial claims have been filed. Compared with prior economic downturns, this rapid spike in claims amid the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. Unemployment Insurance claims for the nation are now much higher than at any point during the Great Recession and the 1990 and 2001 recessions.

We tracked each state’s Unemployment Insurance initial claims using the US Department of Labor’s data and compared them with total initial claims in three prior recessions. This tool displays weekly updates of Unemployment Insurance claims from mid-March 2020 through the end of the year.


Source: US Department of Labor.

Notes: Data are not seasonally adjusted. The start and end dates of Unemployment Insurance claims for prior recessions correspond to the economic downturn dates defined by the National Bureau of Economic Research.



This feature was created by the Urban Institute’s State and Local Finance Initiative and analyzes Unemployment Insurance claims by state. The interactive graphics highlight differences across all 50 states and the District of Columbia and provide comparisons to three prior recessions.

The data show the current initial claims (beginning March 14, 2020) compared with claims during the past three recessions, defined by the following start and end dates: the 1990 recession (July 14, 1990, to March 30, 1991); the 2001 recession (March 17, 2001, to November 24, 2001); and the Great Recession (December 15, 2007, to June 27, 2009). A summary table version of the data can be found here.

The US Department of Labor releases weekly Unemployment Insurance claims data on Thursdays. All data reported here are for seasonally unadjusted initial claims and may include some initial claims processed under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. You can find further information about the data and comparability here.

This tool was published on May 28, 2020, and was updated through the end of the year. In a previous version of this tool, the map measured Unemployment Insurance initial claims as a share of the population age 18 and over. Although relevant during the initial period of Unemployment Insurance filings while state economies were closed, that measure will become less appropriate as previous Unemployment Insurance claimants return to work and possibly experience a second spell of unemployment.

The State and Local Finance Initiative is an Urban Institute project in the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.



This feature was funded by Arnold Ventures and other funders. We are grateful to them and to all our funders, who make it possible for Urban to advance its mission. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders. Funders do not determine research findings or the insights and recommendations of our experts.

RESEARCH Lucy DadayanDonnie CharlestonAravind Boddupalli, and Kim Rueben

DESIGN Christina Baird

DEVELOPMENT Ben Chartoff and Jerry Ta

EDITING Wesley Jenkins and Michael Marazzi