Giving Compass' Take:

• Alan Berube details the benefits of analyzing unemployment insurance claims to locate areas that need the most coronavirus support.

• Why is it important to understand regional differences in coronavirus' impact? How can you support vulnerable communities and areas today?

• Learn about where you can most effectively offer funding for impactful coronavirus response.

Initial unemployment insurance (UI) claims may provide a more current picture of regional labor market volatility. Each week, states report the preceding week’s data on initial UI claims to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Comparing total claims across the four weeks to initial employment totals by metro area shows that in just one month, as many as one-quarter of all workers in tourism destinations such as Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Myrtle Beach, S.C. lost their jobs, as work in hotels, casinos, and entertainment hubs quickly dried up.

Another factor that may contribute to differences across counties and states in the prevalence of these claims is the responsiveness of their UI systems. Research from the Economic Policy Institute finds that for every 10 people who successfully filed for UI benefits between mid-March and mid-April, at least three more tried but couldn’t get through. Some states have purposely made it more burdensome for people to apply for UI benefits, while others have simply failed to update or upgrade computer systems that handle such applications.

Because they are reported weekly, data on metro areas’ initial UI claims offer insights into the health of local economies that are something closer to real time than official labor market surveys. Moreover, they show that the impacts of this downturn are not being felt evenly across the country, nor even within states—illustrating the need for tailored assistance to heavily affected areas.

But the insights are only as complete as the data behind them. Although this analysis manages to cover a majority of major U.S. metro areas, too many states fail to make sub-state UI data accessible to the public.

Read the full article about unemployment insurance claims during COVID-19 by Alan Berube at Brookings.