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Tracking the Rapid Rise in Unemployment Insurance Claims

Every state in the country is currently going through a historic, gargantuan rise in unemployment insurance claims. Numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor help to show when, where and how much.

Editor's note: The chart at the top of this article will be updated regularly with new data from the Department of Labor.

As state governments try to throttle the spread of the coronavirus, ease mounting economic pains and quickly adopt remote work practices, they have one more issue to deal with: A sudden, enormous, historic rise in the number of people seeking unemployment insurance benefits.

Data from the U.S. Department of Labor shows the spike materializing on the week that ended on March 21. The week prior, the country only saw about 250,000 UI claims. The next week, that number grew more than 11 times to over 2.9 million. Afterward, it continued rising.

The spike happened in all 50 states that week. The least hard-hit at the time had twice the number of claims that it did on Feb. 1. The worst-hit, New Hampshire, had 64 times that amount.

For raw numbers of UI claims per state, see the table at the bottom of this story.

The surge has already put some states’ UI claims management systems under significant strain, leading third parties like IBM and U.S. Digital Response to organize tech talent to help. In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy asked for volunteers who know COBOL and promised that the state will conduct a “post-mortem” on its UI system.

Though UI claims are just one metric for studying the U.S. economy, they help show how sudden and dramatic the turnaround from recent nationwide prosperity has been. In the face of that turnaround, state and local governments are widely predicting revenue shortfalls, service cuts and employee furloughs and layoffs.

Charts no longer being updated:

Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.