An exclusive look at job losses in America: Michigan and Pennsylvania are getting hit the hardest

Key Points
  • Michigan and Pennsylvania are among the hardest hit state economies from the coronavirus shutdowns, with about 20% of workers filing claims, compared to New York, where just 13% filed for benefits.
  • But it's hard to tell from the data whether the claims are a result of the amount of layoffs in each state or the individual state's ability to process claims quickly.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis responded Thursday to complaints that millions of calls for help went unanswered.
  • In just four weeks, 22.3 million workers, or 14% of America's workforce filed for unemployment claims, but the percentage filing in each state varies widely.
People who lost their jobs wait in line to file for unemployment following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at an Arkansas Workforce Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas, April 6, 2020.
Nick Oxford | Reuters

One out of every five workers in Michigan and Pennsylvania have applied for unemployment benefits, compared to just one out of 16 in Florida and one out of 14 in Texas, according to data calculated by CNBC.

While 22.3 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since March 14, the CNBC data shows vast differences in the economic pain being experienced in different states from the coronavirus shutdown.

But it also shows differences in a given state's ability to process claims that are flooding into unemployment offices, frustrating unemployed workers with busy signals and delayed responses to applications.

It's impossible to know how much of a state's claims results from the amount of layoffs or the amount of claims workers have been able to file.

Residents in many states complain they can't even reach their unemployment offices to file. Claims could continue to be high in coming weeks as more Americans lose their jobs, and as more workers are able to file for benefits from jobs they've already lost.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis responded Thursday to complaints that millions of calls for help went unanswered. He appointed a new official to oversee the unemployment benefits website and call center. "We have to do better," DeSantis said. Florida's claims could surge in coming weeks if more applications are processed, affecting the national average.

For the nation as a whole, 22.3 million Americans have filed for unemployment claims since March 14, representing about 14% of the workforce.

The number includes an additional 5.2 million claims that the government reported Thursday, down from 6.6 million the prior week. That has led some economists to believe claims for unemployment benefits could be peaking.

CNBC looked at the total claims filed in the five weeks since March 14 as a percentage of each state's workforce.

Michigan topped the list of big states with 21% of its workforce filing for claims since mid-March, representing 1 million claims. That was followed by Pennsylvania at 20% with 1.3 million claims.

Nowhere have more claims been filed than in California, which has processed 2.8 million or 15% of its workforce. The number of claims declined in California in the most recent week, suggesting that states that processed claims early may have reached a peak.

New York had lagged behind other big states but appears to have made some progress. It has now accepted 1.2 million claims, representing 13% of its workforce.

By contrast, just 479,000 claims, representing 6% of the workforce, have been filed in Florida, where it's known to be difficult to get unemployment benefits. Texas has accepted 1 million claims, or 7% of its workforce.

Congress increased the dollar amount of claim benefits in recent legislation, adding an additional $600 per person. But just filing claims does not guarantee benefits. States can deny claims for many reasons.