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Pandemic’s $794 billion unemployment advantages had been historic. Right here’s a glance again at their scope

Gabby Jones/Bloomberg through Getty Pictures


States issued $794 billion in mixed state and federal unemployment advantages from March 2020 by July 2021, in accordance with a U.S. Division of Labor spokeswoman.

That sum is way larger than throughout another interval in historical past, in accordance with labor specialists.

It is robust to attract direct comparisons, because of the completely different time scales of financial downturns. For an instance, we are able to study 2009, the yr during which unemployment peaked in the course of the Nice Recession, which earlier than the pandemic had been the worst U.S. recession because the Nice Melancholy.

The jobless acquired $128 billion in complete unemployment advantages in 2009, in accordance with an City Institute evaluation. By comparability, the jobless had gotten $637 billion — 5 occasions as a lot — a couple of yr after the CARES Act turned legislation, in accordance with The Century Basis.

CARES Act insurance policies aimed to exchange a giant chunk of misplaced paychecks as laid-off staff had been requested to remain residence to scale back the virus’ unfold.

“We had lots of people we needed to remain residence,” stated Betsey Stevenson, an economics and public coverage professor on the College of Michigan. “We additionally had a lot of folks lose jobs instantly.”

The legislation briefly raised the quantity of weekly advantages, by $600 every week after which $300 every week at varied factors thereafter. These infusions basically doubled or tripled the common weekly profit.

It expanded assist to tens of millions of individuals, just like the self-employed and gig staff, who had been beforehand ineligible for conventional state unemployment insurance coverage. The long-term unemployed additionally acquired further, federally financed weeks of advantages after they depleted state assist.

The $794 billion issued by July 2021 consists of:

  • Bonus funds ($300 and $600 every week): $418 billion
  • State unemployment insurance coverage: $167 billion
  • Pandemic Unemployment Help (for gig staff): $122 billion
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (for the long-term unemployed): $75 billion
  • Prolonged Advantages (for the long-term unemployed): $12 billion.


Figuring out the variety of distinctive people who’ve collected advantages in the course of the pandemic is an administrative problem, in accordance with labor specialists. The Labor Division would not acquire this information from states, in accordance with a spokeswoman.

A yr into the pandemic, as much as 46.2 million folks had acquired no less than one week of advantages, amounting to about 1 in four staff, in accordance with an estimate from The Century Basis.

That projection consists of 15.5 million individuals who acquired no less than one week of Pandemic Unemployment Help (for the self-employed and gig staff), who’d by no means earlier than been eligible for advantages on a nationwide scale.

“You could possibly actually say [unemployment benefits] unambiguously reached many extra folks, as a result of they modified the protection,” Julia Lane, an economist and professor at New York College, stated of lawmakers’ CARES Act growth.

By comparability, 14.5 million Individuals collected no less than one profit fee in 2009 — lower than a 3rd of the pandemic annual complete, in accordance with The Century Basis evaluation. And 5 million did so within the 12 months earlier than the pandemic started.

Whole weeks

“Whole weeks compensated” is one other technique to gauge the scope of profit receipt. It measures the variety of weekly profit funds issued.

It isn’t a precise measure of the variety of people, as a result of it would not management for length. (For instance, 10 weeks of paid advantages may imply one particular person collected assist for 10 weeks, or that 10 folks every collected for one week.)

There have been about 1.5 billion complete weeks compensated from March 2020 by July 2021, in accordance with the Labor Division.

The sum consists of:

  • Pandemic Unemployment Help: 609 million weeks
  • Common state advantages: 555 million weeks
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation: 251 million weeks
  • Prolonged Advantages: 34 million weeks

By comparability, about 400 million weekly funds had been issued in 2009, about half these paid within the pandemic’s first yr, in accordance with The Century Basis.  

The pandemic complete can be seemingly understated, since some states have not submitted common information for Pandemic Unemployment Help, in accordance with the Labor Division.

About half of U.S. states ended their participation in some or all federal unemployment applications in June or July, forward of their official expiration this weekend, which restricted the scope of funds.


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