Employment, Income, and Unemployment Insurance during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Brief

Employment, Income, and Unemployment Insurance during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a severe toll on the US labor market. In this brief, we examine the pandemic’s effects on US adults’ employment and incomes and the extent to which those suffering economic hardship have been able to access unemployment benefits. To do so, we use new data from the first wave of the Urban Institute’s Coronavirus Tracking Survey, a nationally representative survey of nonelderly adults conducted May 14 through 27, 2020. Survey respondents are a subset of the who participated in the Health Reform Monitoring Survey between March 25 and April 10, 2020, allowing us to monitor how the pandemic has affected these adults over time. We find the following:

  • More than two in five adults (43.4 percent) reported that their families suffered a job or income loss because of the economic impact of COVID-19. Such losses disproportionately accrued to families of adults with lower incomes and Hispanic people.
  • The share of adults working dropped to 65.6 percent in May, down from the 68.1 percent reported in March/April. Hispanic and non-Hispanic white adults reported statistically significant declines in employment.
  • Among adults whose families experienced a job loss, 36.3 percent reported that their families received UI benefits in the 30 days before the survey. Another 17.6 percent had applied for UI after March 1 but had not received it in the 30 days before the survey. Most adults (54.6 percent) who applied for UI but had not received it reported that the process was difficult.

 

This brief was updated July 2, 2020, to clarify the share of unemployed people who received UI benefits during previous economic downturns (page 2). At unemployment’s peak during the Great Recession, about 60 percent of unemployed people received benefits, including those receiving federal extended benefits. The 45 percent share reported in a previous version of the brief inadvertently excluded people receiving federal extended benefits.

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