For the fourth week in a row, new unemployment claims were lower than the previous week, and new data from the state shows that more than 80 percent of new claims since March 15 came from residents describing themselves as white.
Of the 722,552 new claims since March 15, some 82 percent – or 459,511 claims – were from white residents, with the next highest racial group being Hispanic residents at 15 percent (91,779 claims). That did not include the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims, which is a new type of unemployment for self-employed, gig workers and other workers that don’t typically qualify for unemployment.
Of the other groups represented, Black/African Americans made up 10 percent of the new claims (54,584 claims) and Asian residents made up 8 percent (44,018).
The state Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) did not give any reasons as to the large numbers of white residents claiming unemployment since March 15. The sectors of the economy with the most new claims included Retail Trade, Food & Accommodations, and Healthcare & Social Assistance.
From April 19 to April 25, Massachusetts had 70,552 individuals file an initial claim for standard Unemployment Insurance (UI), the fourth consecutive week of fewer initial claims filed over the previous week. Since March 15, a total of 722,009 initial claims were filed. As the number of initial claims continues to decrease, the number of claimants filing for their weekly benefit each week continues to grow. For the week of April 19 to April 25, there were a total of 527,538 claimants, an increase of 13.8% over the previous week, who filed for their weekly unemployment benefits. Food and Accommodation with 93,168, Retail Trade at 69,333 and Health and Social Assistance with 66,202 showed the largest number of claimants who filed for their weekly unemployment benefits.
The Cares Act created a new temporary federal program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides unemployment benefits to individuals who are self-employed, gig workers and those not covered by regular unemployment compensation. In the week of April 19 to April 25, there were a total of 171,598 PUA claims.
From March 15 to April 25, combining UI and PUA, Massachusetts had a total of 893,607 claims filed for unemployment insurance.
Currently, the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is paying standard Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits to around 450,000 claimants and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance to around 150,000 claimants. Since March 15, nearly 700,000 Massachusetts total claims have been paid amounting to more than $2.3 Billion in disbursements to beneficiaries of both programs.
Over the last month, the customer service staff at DUA has grown from around 50 employees to more than 1,200. The remote customer service operation is now making more than 25,000 individual contacts per day and DUA continues to host daily unemployment town halls, held in both English and Spanish, which have been attended by more than 200,000 constituents. Massachusetts was one of the first states to successfully launch the PUA program. Due to DUA’s previous efforts to migrate their systems to the cloud, the first unemployment agency in the country to do so, the unemployment online platforms for both regular UI and PUA has maintained functionality throughout the surge in demand.