New jobless claims data shows that Massachusetts unemployment has grown from 2.8% to at least 20.4% in five weeks

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This morning, the United States Labor Department released its jobless claims report for the week ending April 18, 2020. It indicated that the Massachusetts received 80,345 new claims during the week ending April 18. This brings the total number of new claims filed in Massachusetts in the five weeks since March 14 to 653,680 (see Table A). 

Based on today’s jobless claims report, Pioneer Institute projects that the current unemployment rate in Massachusetts is at least 20.4 percent, with a minimum of 762,299 currently unemployed individuals. The number of unemployed individuals is actually higher than that because not all unemployed individuals are eligible for unemployment insurance. A monthly survey of households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that 108,619 individuals were unemployed in Massachusetts during the week ending March 14 and estimated that Massachusetts had a civilian labor force of 3,740,602 at that time. 

Pioneer Institute previously projected that Massachusetts unemployment could reach 25.4 percent by the end of June. Today’s federal claims data provides further evidence that this may come to pass, given that many individuals who have become unemployed during the past five weeks have not yet been accounted for in federal weekly claims data.The $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”) broadened eligibility for unemployment insurance to include self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and some individuals with limited work history, among others. On Monday, April 20, Governor Baker directed the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance to begin accepting claims from this new category of eligible individuals. These newly eligible claims will be showing up in jobless claims data reported by the U.S. Labor Department in coming weeks.

Today’s jobless claims report means that the total number of unemployed individuals in Massachusetts has increased from 108,619 on March 14 to at least 762,299 on April 18, and that the unemployment rate has increased from 2.8 percent to at least 20.4 percent over this period.  

The U.S. Census Bureau has just finished conducting a sample survey of State Employment and Unemployment during the week ending April 18 on behalf of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the results will not finalized and made public until May 22. Because of this built-in time delay, it is not possible to determine the real-time unemployment rate of the states. A proxy methodology is to add the most-recently reported number of unemployed individuals in each state, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, to weekly jobs claims. This methodology gives a conservative estimate of unemployment because it does not count individuals who have become unemployed but are not eligible for unemployment insurance.

Tradingeconomics.com projected last week that 4,545,000 seasonally adjusted initial jobless claims would be reported by the U.S. Labor Department nationally for the week ending April 18. Its forecast was just 2.5 percent more than the actual number of 4,427,000 reported today. It is currently forecasting that 3,680,000 claims will be filed in the week ending April 25.

If jobless claims continue to come in at that level, Massachusetts unemployment rate will likely reach at least 22 percent by the end of April, not counting unemployed individuals who have not filed unemployment claims.

The following Table A shows Pioneer Institute’s calculation of the unemployment rates of the 50 states and D.C. computed by adding total unemployment on March 14 to the subsequent five weeks of jobless claims. This is a conservative estimate because it does not account for additional individuals who have become unemployed during the past five weeks but were not eligible for unemployment benefits. The Cares Act has made many of these individuals eligible and those claims are expected to be reflected in upcoming jobless claims reports in the coming weeks.

TABLE A. Civilian Labor force, with unemployment claims since March 14, 2020, by state

Civilian labor force 3/14 Unem-ployment3/14 Initial claims week ending 3/21 Initial claims week ending 3/28 Initial claims week ending 4/4 Initial claims week ending 4/11 Initial claims week ending 4/18 5-weeks of new claims since 3/14 Unem-ployment on 3/14 + 5 weeks of new claims Current minimum unem-ployment rate
Alabama 2,216,529 77,988 10,892 80,984 106,739 77,515 65,431 341,561 419,549 18.9%
Alaska 345,010 19,426 7,847 13,774 14,590 12,007 13,027 61,245 80,671 23.4%
Arizona 3,582,503 196,793 29,348 88,940 132,428 98,531 71,843 421,090 617,883 17.2%
Arkansas 1,386,748 66,328 9,275 27,756 62,086 35,629 24,236 158,982 225,310 16.2%
California 19,264,202 1,020,088 186,333 1,058,325 918,814 655,472 533,568 3,352,512 4,372,600 22.7%
Colorado 3,140,721 142,578 19,774 61,838 46,326 104,572 68,667 301,177 443,755 14.1%
Connecticut 1,928,880 72,183 25,100 33,227 33,464 34,050 102,757 228,598 300,781 15.6%
Delaware 478,296 24,466 10,776 19,137 18,851 13,258 9,294 71,316 95,782 20.0%
District of Columbia 419,333 25,253 14,462 15,869 15,329 9,974 8,591 64,225 89,478 21.3%
Florida 10,335,416 443,651 74,313 228,484 169,885 180,419 505,137 1,158,238 1,601,889 15.5%
Georgia 5,133,913 216,589 12,140 133,820 390,132 319,581 243,677 1,099,350 1,315,939 25.6%
Hawaii 669,033 17,405 8,817 48,596 53,101 34,717 26,477 171,708 189,113 28.3%
Idaho 893,211 22,947 13,586 32,941 30,904 18,531 12,456 108,418 131,365 14.7%
Illinois 6,327,881 292,294 114,114 178,421 201,041 141,160 102,736 737,472 1,029,766 16.3%
Indiana 3,277,168 104,801 59,755 139,174 127,010 113,755 75,483 515,177 619,978 18.9%
Iowa 1,728,819 63,514 40,952 55,966 64,194 43,889 27,912 232,913 296,427 17.1%
Kansas 1,498,403 46,516 23,563 54,330 49,306 29,873 31,920 188,992 235,508 15.7%
Kentucky 2,051,009 117,936 49,023 113,149 117,575 116,277 103,548 499,572 617,508 30.1%
Louisiana 2,152,388 149,441 72,438 97,400 100,621 79,653 92,039 442,151 591,592 27.5%
Maine 695,200 22,191 21,459 23,770 30,910 13,488 11,446 101,073 123,264 17.7%
Maryland 3,283,140 107,546 42,981 85,317 109,496 62,904 46,676 347,374 454,920 13.9%
Massachusetts 3,740,602 108,619 148,452 181,423 139,647 103,813 80,345 653,680 762,299 20.4%
Michigan 4,905,992 200,577 128,006 304,335 388,554 222,207 134,119 1,177,221 1,377,798 28.1%
Minnesota 3,073,111 95,278 115,773 109,095 110,260 93,133 74,873 503,134 598,412 19.5%
Mississippi 1,271,933 67,395 5,519 32,015 45,852 45,748 35,843 164,977 232,372 18.3%
Missouri 3,137,363 139,709 42,246 104,291 91,458 102,126 52,678 392,799 532,508 17.0%
Montana 538,014 18,685 15,349 20,763 21,244 14,275 10,509 82,140 100,825 18.7%
Nebraska 1,058,573 44,081 15,700 24,725 27,054 16,279 12,340 96,098 140,179 13.2%
Nevada 1,563,385 98,431 92,298 71,942 79,285 58,641 40,909 343,075 441,506 28.2%
New Hampshire 768,594 19,620 29,379 31,378 39,202 25,273 19,110 144,342 163,962 21.3%
New Jersey 4,573,551 174,263 115,815 206,253 214,836 141,420 139,277 817,601 991,864 21.7%
New Mexico 973,175 57,713 18,105 27,849 26,132 19,043 13,338 104,467 162,180 16.7%
New York 9,419,440 427,978 79,999 366,595 344,451 394,701 204,716 1,390,462 1,818,440 19.3%
North Carolina 4,969,407 217,626 94,083 172,145 137,422 140,155 104,515 648,320 865,946 17.4%
North Dakota 404,721 8,752 5,662 11,818 15,125 9,502 9,042 51,149 59,901 14.8%
Ohio 5,732,212 313,818 196,309 274,288 226,191 159,317 108,801 964,906 1,278,724 22.3%
Oklahoma 1,842,278 56,245 21,926 47,744 60,534 54,481 40,297 224,982 281,227 15.3%
Oregon 2,107,777 69,389 30,054 47,498 62,788 54,581 35,101 230,022 299,411 14.2%
Pennsylvania 6,539,194 394,247 377,451 404,677 277,640 234,868 198,081 1,492,717 1,886,964 28.9%
Rhode Island 566,605 26,334 35,847 27,800 28,243 22,509 17,578 131,977 158,311 27.9%
South Carolina 2,396,550 61,898 31,826 66,475 86,573 89,147 73,116 347,137 409,035 17.1%
South Dakota 467,565 15,352 1,761 6,801 8,138 6,359 5,128 28,187 43,539 9.3%
Tennessee 3,362,841 116,846 38,077 92,500 112,186 71,887 68,968 383,618 500,464 14.9%
Texas 14,019,339 664,769 155,426 276,185 315,167 274,257 280,406 1,301,441 1,966,210 14.0%
Utah 1,623,114 57,840 19,690 28,532 33,040 24,037 19,751 125,050 182,890 11.3%
Vermont 342,381 11,024 3,784 14,633 16,474 9,662 6,434 50,987 62,011 18.1%
Virginia 4,429,864 146,958 46,277 112,497 147,369 104,619 84,387 495,149 642,107 14.5%
Washington 3,889,700 197,569 129,909 182,849 171,252 144,455 89,105 717,570 915,139 23.5%
West Virginia 818,064 49,495 3,536 14,523 14,494 14,944 46,251 93,748 143,243 17.5%
Wisconsin 3,104,804 105,705 51,031 110,934 104,823 70,000 55,886 392,674 498,379 16.1%
Wyoming 294,911 11,049 3,653 6,396 6,543 5,794 3,321 25,707 36,756 12.5%

 

Gregory W. Sullivan is the Research Director at the Pioneer Institute, overseeing the divisions PioneerPublic and PioneerOpportunity. He also previously served as Inspector General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for 10 years and in the Massachusetts House of Representatives for 17 years. Mr. Sullivan has a Master’s degree in public administration from the Kennedy School at Harvard University and a second Master’s degree concentrating in finance from the Sloan School at MIT.  

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