Using initial claim data for unemployment benefits from March 15 through March 28, 2020, it is possible to calculate estimated unemployment rates by state and the unemployment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Data is presented as both a map and as a table.

It's important to emphasize that these are very rough estimates and require a number of assumptions and limitations, which are detailed after the map and table. Given these assumptions and limitations, it is likely that the “true” unemployment rate is actually higher, perhaps substantially higher, than the estimates.

These estimates are also backwards-looking, and do not predict future unemployment rates from March 29, 2020 onward. Since it's extremely likely that things will get worse before it gets better as the coronavirus pandemic continues, the unemployment rate is likely to increase in most/all states each week in April 2020.

The national unemployment rate in the United States is estimated at 8.8%, which represents a 5.3% increase from February 2020. By comparison, the unemployment rate reached a high of 10.0% during the Great Recession (October 2019) and a high of 24.9% during the Great Depression (1933).

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Map: Estimated Unemployment Rates by State (April 2, 2020)

Table: Estimated Unemployment Rates by State (April 2, 2020)

Data Used for Estimated Unemployment Rates by State (April 2, 2020)

  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2020, March 27). Economic News Release: Table 1. Civilian labor force and unemployment by state and selected area, seasonally adjusted. Retrieved April 2, 2020, from https://www.bls.gov/news.release/laus.t01.htm
  • U.S. Department of Labor. (2020, April 2). News Release: Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims. Retrieved April 2, 2020, from https://www.dol.gov/ui/data.pdf

Assumptions for Estimated Unemployment Rates by State (April 2, 2020)

  • civilian labor force (sum of all Americans who are considered willing and able to work) has not meaningfully changed since February 2020
    • federal employees (including military), retirees, disabled, and agricultural workers are generally not included as part of the civilian labor force
    • discouraged workers who have stopped looking for work are generally excluded
  • net employment did not meaningfully change from February 2020 figures until the week of March 15, 2020
  • anyone who filed a unemployment claim from March 15, 2020 through March 28, 2020 did not later find employment

Limitations for Estimated Unemployment Rates by State (April 2, 2020)

  • based on initial advance claims for the week of March 22
  • many states are experiencing a backlog of initial unemployment benefits claims…unprocessed claims are not included
  • estimated increases in unemployment figures are based off initial claims, which excludes those who have not (yet) filed a claim and have had their claim processed
  • data is not seasonally-adjusted; the seasonally-adjusted national initial claims figure is about 800,000 higher than the not seasonally-adjusted
  • Pennsylvania's initial advance claims filed for the week of March 22 are estimates (by the state)

More Resources: Unemployment Benefits