Heartland Forward Unemployment Insurance Monitor

Dave Shideler and Jonas Crews


Heartland Forward is tracking weekly unemployment insurance data to understand how economies across different states are responding to the COVID-19 induced recession. Heartland Forward will update the following visualizations weekly (data is updated Thursday mornings), and periodically we may add additional visualizations to provide more insight into the changes occurring in unemployment insurance claims across the nation and their implications for employment and economic activity, so check back often.

Weekly unemployment insurance claims data provide the most up-to-date data on employment trends that are available. Economists watch these data as indicators of the economy’s health, as movements in unemployment insurance foreshadow periods of economic contraction or expansion.

The map allows you to observe how the levels of UI initial claims by state and week since March 7, 2020. Shades of red reflect rising claims, while shades of green reflect declining claims. If you hover over a given state, you will be given the level of claims for the selected week, as well as the level change and percent change over the previous week.

The insured unemployment rate (IUR) is the ratio of the number of continuing claims in a given week to the number of employees covered by UI during that quarter. IUR is a proxy for economic activity. Increasing trends indicate economic contraction, since more individuals are receiving UI benefits from week to week; decreasing trends indicate economic expansion. Continuing claims are filed to receive benefits for a week of unemployment, so these represent individuals receiving UI benefits. Covered employment is a proxy for the local workforce, as it represents all workers (employed and unemployed) that are eligible to receive UI benefits. Data for the IUR lag two weeks from the week of reporting.

The user can customize the chart by selecting any or all of the states, as well as aggregate values for the Heartland and U.S. Hovering over a state’s line will provide the continuing claims, covered employment and IUR corresponding to the week and region nearest the cursor.

Additional Notes:

The Heartland region consists of these states: Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

Eligibility for unemployment insurance was expanded to cover individuals who are quarantined, caring for a family member with COVID-19, or who are voluntarily quarantining arising from health concerns. Additionally, independent contractors and sole proprietors are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Enhanced benefits have included:

  • $600-per-week supplement to state’s regular payments through July 31, 2020, and an extension of every state’s benefits duration by 13 weeks. (provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security – CARES – Act)
  • Up to $400-per-week supplement to state’s regular payments from August 1, 2020 through December 26, 2020 (The Lost Wages Assistance – LWA – program was authorized by Presidential Memorandum.)
  • $300-per-week supplement to state’s regular payments from December 26, 2020 through March 14, 2021 – an additional 11 weeks. (An additional $100-per-week is available to certain groups of self-employed and contract workers.)

Unemployment insurance claims is reported weekly, 8:30 am Eastern Time on Thursdays, by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration here: https://www.dol.gov/ui/data.pdf. Historical data is available for download here: https://oui.doleta.gov/unemploy/claims.asp.