As the U.S. has embraced social distancing policies in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19, many businesses have shut their doors either voluntarily or by government order. While some businesses have dealt with the crisis by having employees work from home, that option is not available to everyone. Millions of Americans have found themselves temporarily or permanently out of a job as a result, illustrated by the extremely high number of initial unemployment insurance claims, at over 6.6 million, for the week of March 30.

While Americans have already started receiving their stimulus checks, those who are jobless will likely still struggle. However, not all states have experienced the same levels of unemployment due to the pandemic. In order to find out the states whose unemployment percentages are most and least affected, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across two key metrics. These metrics compare unemployment claim increases for the week of March 30 to both the same week in 2019 and the first week of 2020. 


Expert opinions

Facing a pandemic is stressful enough by itself, but many Americans must deal with losing their employment on top of health concerns. To help guide Americans in this time of crisis, WalletHub turned to a panel of experts to provide some additional insight. 

  • What is your opinion on the $2.2 trillion emergency relief package that has been passed by Congress and signed by President Trump? Will this be sufficient to ensure full relief?

“It is a good start and should be helpful,” said Joseph A. Alutto, distinguished professor, emeritus, Ohio State University. “But it will not be sufficient given the societal and economic changes being created. Another tranche of funding for infrastructure improvement is appropriate the only questions being how large it should be and how tightly controlled to ensure that the funding is allocated to viable projects.

Chris Altizer, MBA, MA, adjunct lecturer, Florida International University, said while the first checks in the mail will be the first tangible evidence of the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, several elements can help beyond the checks, including expanded unemployment benefits, paid leaves, suspended loan interest, moratorium on eviction, and more. 

Source: WalletHub

“Like all omnibus budgets, there is something for most everyone to appreciate, to envy, and to disagree with,” he said. “As is true for all legislation and budget exercise, some interests are represented more than others. That this bill will provide relief is without a doubt. That it will, as some have said, inspire otherwise employable people to stay home and collect checks rather than seek work is, however, highly doubtful.

“The staggering size of the package is lost on most, if not all, of us,” continued Altizer. “We lose or choose to accept the reality that such packages are loans to our collective selves that our collective selves guarantee with optimism about our collective future. As I said to the question of unemployment, whether or not this $2.2 trillion package or the other packages being proposed will be sufficient depends on how long the situation continues. Avoiding parallels with history, at some point, governments can’t keep printing money without it losing value. The wisdom of knowing how much to borrow from tomorrow to stay afloat today is beyond most of us, especially when reasonable people disagree about what staying afloat means in difficult times piled on top of existing economic disparity.”

  • What is the best advice for the people that don’t qualify for the stimulus payments?

“People who don’t qualify for stimulus money obviously face serious problems,” said Ahmed White, professor of law, University of Colorado, Boulder. “There are emergency relief benefits, both public and private, as well as other forms of support, like disability, SNAP, and TANF. The problem is that these latter benefits generally go to people who didn’t have a job to lose in the first place. As with the Great Depression, it’s not unlikely that many people, whether they get stimulus money or not, will find the greatest source of support in landlords and creditors who forgo payment. But, of course, this is neither a reliable nor an ideal way to survive an economic downturn.”

Source: WalletHub

Christopher Hayes, labor historian, the State University of New Jersey School of Management and Labor Relations, Rutgers, offered a very different opinion. 

“To my knowledge, the only adults who don’t qualify at all are those individuals who broke six figures and married couples who made over $198,000, in which case I hope you have been saving,” Hayes said. “Those people, if they still have jobs, should stop and think about how fortunate they are. The other group is college students under 24 years old, who are listed as dependents on someone else’s tax return. I would tell them to cast their nets far and wide, work hard, don’t expect it to necessarily return much, prepare for disappointment, and keep at it. But, they should also be realistic about what is not working out for you and be OK with moving on.”