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How Unemployment Surged In Illinois, Neighboring States During The Coronavirus Pandemic

By Samah Assad, Dana Kozlov

CHICAGO (CBS) — More than 650,000 people have filed for unemployment in Illinois in the last six weeks -- an exponential number in light of the coronavirus pandemic that has left businesses shuttered and many jobless.

CBS 2 tracked and analyzed final unemployment claim totals released by the U.S. Department of Labor over the course of six weeks, beginning for the week ending in March 7 and through the week ending in April 10. Specifically, we looked at neighboring states to see how their unemployment claims have grown week by week since the pandemic took hold. This includes Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin.

We found Illinois has the second-most total claims filed among those states. It is trailing Michigan, where more than 1 million people filed for unemployment in the same timeframe.

In Indiana, there were 2,223 claims filed during the week ending in March 7. More than 400,000 more claims were filed since then. That's a more than 5000% increase.

CBS 2 also found a common thread in the numbers for every state we reviewed. It wasn't just an increase in claims filed, but is was also when it happened that contributed to the spike.

Once stay-at-home orders across the country began to take effect -- many in mid-March, including Illinois' -- there was a substantial jump in people filing for unemployment.

For the week ended in March 14, there were nearly 11,000 claims filed in Illinois. One week later, that surged to more than 114,000 new claims.

For the same week, just over 5,000 people in Wisconsin filed for unemployment. The next week, more than 51,000 new applications were filed.

Illinois continued to see an increase until last week, when more than 140,000 claims were filed. This is a drop from the more than 200,000 claims the week before.

Despite the decrease, the number is still significant compared to the total claims filed in the same timeframe last year, which was just over 7,700 claims, according to numbers from the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

Every state we reviewed except Missouri also saw a decrease in claims last week.

Olugbenga Ajilore, a senior economist at American Progress, said it's difficult to determine whether the decrease is a positive sign at this time. Because IDES' online application system has been overwhelmed with people attempting to file claims, and technical issues have made it a challenge for many to file at all, Ajilore said he expects additional spikes in claims in the future as more people continue to file for unemployment.

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