Apr 29, 2020 - Economy

14 million Americans may be missing out on unemployment benefits

Data: Economic Policy Institute; Chart: Axios Visuals

The number of new unemployment claims filed by Americans over the past five weeks has been record-shattering, and the shock has overwhelmed states' ability to process claims, likely leaving millions more newly jobless people without benefits.

What's happening: A new study from left-leaning think tank EPI finds that there are likely as many as 14 million people who have lost their jobs since March 15 but have been unable to apply for unemployment benefits.

Why it matters: "These findings imply the official count of unemployment insurance claims likely drastically understates the extent of employment reductions and the need for economic relief during the coronavirus crisis," EPI economist Ben Zipperer and senior economist Elise Gould write.

What they're saying: While the $2.2 trillion CARES Act increased workers’ unemployment eligibility and benefits during the coronavirus pandemic, "widespread reports indicate that long-neglected state UI systems are unable to handle the volume of applications, preventing laid-off or furloughed workers from receiving necessary unemployment benefits."

Details: EPI's study used a survey of 25,000 people and extrapolated results based on the number of people who have successfully filed unemployment insurance claims over the past five weeks. The results showed that for every 10 people who successfully filed:

  • Three to four additional people tried to apply but could not get through the system to make a claim.
  • Two additional people did not try to apply because it was too difficult to do so.
  • Therefore they estimate an additional 8.9 million to 13.9 million people could have filed for benefits had the process been easier.

Where it stands: The results track with analyst Lou Brien's calculation of jobless claims and unemployment that projects somewhere between 32 million and 70 million people are currently unemployed.

Go deeper: The coronavirus jobs apocalypse is here

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