COVID-19: Attacking Our Health and Our Jobs
Illinois’ New Unemployment Claims Leap Nearly 1000%
As the world struggles to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, life is changing across the country and at all levels of government. Illinois is no exception. In the weeks following Governor J.B. Pritzker’s shelter-in-place directive, closing “non-essential” business throughout the state, Illinois has been hit with the largest surge in unemployment insurance claims in its history. A similar story is taking place nationally.
We reviewed the latest news coverage and data for Illinois and other states. Here’s what we found:
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Unemployment Filings Skyrocketed.
This past week the U.S. Department of Labor shared the latest numbers for new unemployment claims. They are enormous and reflective of the great number of business closings brought on by COVID-19. Nearly 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance in the week ending March 21, up from 282,000. The increase in unemployment filings nationally has been covered widely (quite literally monopolizing the front page of Friday’s The New York Times).
According to the same report, Illinois’ weekly claims reached 114,663, also a historic number.
First, there’s the increase in Illinois. In the seven months before the March 21 report, Illinois was averaging 10,568 filings a week. The highest number during these months was in December 2019, with 16,669 Illinoisans filing for unemployment.
By the end of the week of March 21, 103,793 more Illinoisans filed for unemployment with the state. That’s an increase of nearly 1000% (that’s right, nearly one thousand per cent, and that’s no typo).
For Illinois, this is unprecedented.
Let’s compare this COVID-related increase to another time of great strife: the Great Recession. Even compared to its worst weeks, this last week of unemployment claims in Illinois dwarfs the employment damage of the Great Recession. After compiling Department of Labor data from December 1 of 2007 to December 26 of 2009 it was clear that at no point during this period did Illinois come close to a weekly jump of 100,000 new claims. In fact, the average was about 20,000 claims a week. No matter how we cut it—by total number of claims filed, increase in claims filed, or percent increase in claims filed—no single week during the height of the Great Recession generated as much Illinois unemployment as did this most recent week.
How does Illinois compare with other states?
Other states are similarly facing steep increases in unemployment filings. Differences in those increases relate to each state’s industry sectors . For instance, Nevada and Florida tourism-driven economies (whose pandemic-related hardships the Brookings Institute predicted) had an especially tough time. In fact, Florida filings increased ten-fold to 67,558 between the weeks of March 14 and March 21.
California and New York, states a bit more comparable to our own, saw steep increases in filings though not as dramatic. The Golden State, with population over three times Illinois’, had 186,809 claims for unemployment in the week ending March 21, up from 57,606 the week before. That’s a difference of 129,203, or an increase of 224%.
On the other end of the country, New York jumped from 14,272 claims the week of March 14 to 80,334 the week of March 21. That difference of 66,062 is a 463% increase.
So what does this all mean for Illinois?
There are a few things to keep in mind. This report uses unemployment claims from the U.S. Department of Labor. The numbers we use are a little different than data gathered by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), recently cited by other outlets. The Center used Department of Labor numbers allowing us to compare Illinois’ numbers to other states.
The numbers we cite from the Department of Labor and other states are not seasonally adjusted, whereas the national numbers are. (This is why the DOL names the unadjusted numbers “initial claims.”)
It’s important to note that we refer to new claims, not including workers already supported by unemployment insurance. Additionally, there are likely many Illinoisans that tried to file last week but couldn’t as the IDES website reportedly crashed at one point due to an overwhelming number of applicants.
With more Illinoisans shifting from employed to unemployed status, Illinois’ government is facing a shrinking income tax base and a growing burden state services. While we can’t predict the impact exactly, experts guess that the state’s finances could be in turmoil for the foreseeable future.
*Contributors: Meghan Coleman & Benjamin Polony
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