Brief Employment, Income, and Unemployment Insurance during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Gregory Acs, Michael Karpman
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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.
Research Areas Wealth and financial well-being Families Social safety net Race and equity
Tags Economic well-being Employment and income data Racial and ethnic disparities Unemployment and unemployment insurance From Safety Net to Solid Ground Racial barriers to accessing the safety net Racial inequities in employment
Policy Centers Income and Benefits Policy Center