Unemployment insurance claims in New England across the COVID-19 pandemic: Updates through June 2021
In 2020, we released a brief examining unemployment insurance (UI) claims rates across New England amid the COVID-19 pandemic and related recession. We analyzed the monthly UI claimant rates using information about the demographics of continuing unemployment claimants. As the pandemic evolves and persists, we have taken a close look at what has happened since the summer of 2020 and introduce a new tool for tracking UI claims through economic recovery. Our findings suggest that despite recovery across many industries, UI claims rates remain higher than rates seen before the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. However, widespread gender disparities previously observed have largely abated, with women now only slightly more often claiming UI than men. Nevertheless, disparities across ethnicity persist, with Hispanics/Latinos still much more likely than non-Hispanics/Latinos to be claiming UI. These findings point to the uneven economic recovery and show that though UI claims have started to return to lower levels, as of June 2021, we had not reached prepandemic levels. As the pandemic evolves, it remains to be seen if unemployment claims will evolve.
- Continuing UI claims rates spiked across the region in late spring and early summer 2020 (1,193,423 total claims in May 2020). Since then, they have declined dramatically but remain higher than prepandemic levels (348,413 claims in June 2021 vs. 107,234 claims in June 2019).
- Massachusetts is currently seeing the highest continuing claims rates, driven in part by high rates in hardest-hit industries like other services (rate of 19 percent), accommodation and food services (13 percent), transportation and warehousing (11 percent), and administrative and support and waste management and remediation services (12 percent).
- Gender disparities in continuing UI claims have largely narrowed along with the decrease in the number of continuing claims as a share of the workforce. While in June 2020 the gap between UI claims rates of men and women was over 4 percentage points (14 percent vs. 19 percent) for the New England region, in June 2021 it fell to under half a percentage point (both rates below 5 percent).
- As of June 2021, Hispanic/Latino workers continue to have higher continuing claims rates in the states reporting ethnicity: Connecticut (5 percent), Massachusetts (12 percent), and New Hampshire (3 percent). However, gaps between Hispanic/Latino and non-Hispanic/Latino workers have narrowed dramatically in New Hampshire (2 percentage points) and Connecticut (1 percentage point).
- In all New England states, younger workers (under age 25) had lower continuing UI claims rates than the rest of the workforce in June 2021. Among this group, the highest claims rates were in Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont.
- Older workers (over age 55) had the highest continuing claims rates in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.