Coronavirus clobbers workers in 2020 swing states Michigan and Pennsylvania

Key Points
  • Michigan and Pennsylvania, two 2020 battleground states that President Trump won in 2016, had some of the highest jobless claims per capita over the latest four weeks of data.
  • More than 22 million people nationwide filed for unemployment insurance over that period. 
  • Also near the top of the list were Nevada and New Hampshire, which Hillary Clinton narrowly won in 2016.

The coronavirus pandemic has ravaged workers in Michigan and Pennsylvania, two of the states President Donald Trump most needs to win to earn another term in the White House. 

More than 22 million Americans applied for unemployment insurance over the latest four weeks as the outbreak forced businesses to close, according to Labor Department data released Thursday. The two 2020 election battlegrounds took a bigger hit than nearly all other states. 

Protests break out in Michigan, North Carolina and Ohio over governors' stay-at-home orders
Protests break out in Michigan, NC and Ohio over governors' stay-at-home orders

Michigan, with just above 1 million initial jobless claims during the period, saw the second-highest number per capita. Pennsylvania had 1.3 million unemployment insurance claims overall, the fourth-most per 10,000 residents. 

Generally, states that supported Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 saw more jobless claims than those that backed Trump. Michigan and Pennsylvania, which helped to send Trump to the White House by voting for him by razor-thin margins, stand out from the bunch. Rhode Island had the most jobless claims during the period, while Hawaii was third. Both were won by Clinton in 2016.

A sign gives notice to visitors that The Independence Visitor Center is closed to the public due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak on March 17, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Gilbert Carrasquillo | Getty Images

Also near the top of the list sit Nevada and New Hampshire, just behind Pennsylvania at fifth and sixth, respectively, in unemployment insurance claims per capita. Clinton carried Nevada by about 2.5 percentage points and New Hampshire by less than a percentage point. 

Since the claims data measure applications processed rather than total filed, they do not capture the entire picture. Reports indicate applicants have flooded state systems, and some states may be better than others at processing claims.

While voters often consider the economy in casting their ballots, it is unclear how much the current economic devastation will influence Americans in November when they decide between Trump and apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden. The president's political fate could also depend on voters' views of how much the robust new unemployment insurance passed by Congress last month helps them. (It adds $600 per week, for four months, on top of what recipients would normally get from states). 

Trump has kept a close eye on the political stakes as he faces backlash for his preparedness to combat the crisis. He has gone to the White House briefing room nearly every day for the past few weeks to defend his administration's actions and bash reporters — creating a semblance of the freewheeling campaign rallies he had to cancel during the pandemic. 

As he takes swipes at some Democratic governors during the outbreak, Trump has reserved particular ire for Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — one of Biden's possible running mates.

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