Visualization: Unemployment claims by state

A visualization of unemployment insurance claims by state, adjusted for population.

The number of people filing for unemployment insurance each week is a useful indicator of the state of the economy. I present this data for each state and the nation in an interactive visualization.

The source of this data is the Employment and Training Administration (ETA), a division of the United States Department of Labor.

Because states vary widely in population (the most populous state has 68 times the population of the least populous), I’ve cast the data as claims per thousand residents of each state. I use population estimates from the United States Census Bureau, which are supplied for July 1 of each year. At this time estimates for 2020 are not available, so I use 2019 population estimates for 2020. This introduces a degree of error. This data is not adjusted for seasonality.

When an unemployed worker files a claim for the first time, that is counted as an initial claim. ETA notes: “The count of U.S. initial claims for unemployment insurance is a leading economic indicator because it is an indication of emerging labor market conditions in the country. However, these are weekly administrative data which are difficult to seasonally adjust, making the series subject to some volatility.”

Claims by workers after the initial claim are counted as continued claims. ETA notes: “Continued claims reflect the current number of insured unemployed workers filing for UI benefits in the nation. While continued claims are not a leading indicator (they roughly coincide with economic cycles at their peaks and lag at cycle troughs), they provide confirming evidence of the direction of the U.S. economy.”

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