Who is filing for unemployment?

With the record 3.2 million new claims for the week ending March 21st in the books, and millions more on the horizon, there are a number of unanswered questions about the increase of unemployment:

  1. How long is the surge likely to continue?
  2. Are the new unemployment claimees permanently separated from their jobs, or are they furloughed and likely to be hired back?
  3. What types of workers are being laid off? What industries are the most affected?

For the first question, see the great forecast work being done by Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham and Aaron Sojourner.

On the questions of what industries are the most affected, data is starting to trickle in. The Oregon Employment Department has released some great data on the industry breakdown on who filed for unemployment last week. The raw data is here. Michigan has also released some data, which was summarized by the Upjohn Institute. If you know of any more state data released leave a comment or shoot me an email.

(1) The most affected industry by far is Accommodation and Food Services, which accounts for 47% of the total new claims in Oregon and 32% of the claims in Michigan. Restaurants are completely shut down, and these workers are being laid off right and left.

Restaurant workers are being laid off in droves.

(2) Surprisingly, the second most affected sector is health care and social assistance ! This was actually noted in the national UI report. It accounts for 10% of the claims in Oregon, and 13% of the claims in Michigan.

On the surface this is puzzling, for it seems like that the health care sector should be bulking up to fight the coronavirus rather than shrinking. At this point I can only speculate, but there have been a number of news reports about hospitals laying off workers because elective surgeries are being canceled.

The health care industry is shrinking.

(3) Not surprisingly, retail workers are being hit hard. 6.4% of the claims in Oregon, and 6.5% in Michigan.

(4) Layoffs are widespread. To see this, for each industry I take the average of weekly claims from Jan 1st to March 7th, i.e. before the virus started affecting employment. In Oregon, manufacturing claims are up 100% over a normal week, Trade and Transportation 209%, Information Tech 355%, Finance 135%, Professional and Business Services 128%, Education 964%, Other Services 455%.

Jacob Robbins

Author: Jacob Robbins

Jacob Robbins is an assistant professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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