For two consecutive weeks, new unemployment claims have set record highs in the U.S. Based on data from 2-1-1 helplines across the country, that trend will continue. Typically, very few people call 2-1-1 about unemployment benefits, choosing instead to contact unemployment offices directly. But that has changed with COVID-19. Within 5 days of the pandemic beginning, 2-1-1s detected dramatic increases in requests related to unemployment benefits (top and middle charts). This signal came 10 days before the March 26th report of over 3 million unemployment claims and 17 days before the April 2nd report of 6+ million claims. As the top chart shows, requests to 2-1-1 for unemployment benefits are still rising as of yesterday, April 2, suggesting that the number of claims may also continue rising in the weeks ahead. States with the largest percentile increases in 2-1-1 requests were North Carolina, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Iowa and Virginia (bottom chart). Percent increase was determined by comparing number of unemployment benefit requests to 2-1-1s received March 12 – April 2, 2020 to the same dates in 2019. Note: The top and middle charts include data from all 23 states appearing in the bottom chart, as well as data from selected counties in CA, IL and OH, where statewide data were not available.
Contributors: Balaji Golla, Irum Javed, Matthew Kreuter