April Unemployment Data Do Not Indicate Benefits of Keeping Workers Home

Friday, May 21, 2021


Michael Ettlinger & Jordan Hensley

The disappointing employment data for April have elevated the question of whether the availability of unemployment benefits at higher levels during the COVID economic crisis is keeping workers at home. Today’s state-by-state data release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers one piece of evidence that this is not the case.

States vary substantially in the percentage of their unemployed who receive unemployment insurance benefits (UI). State eligibility rules vary significantly and the likelihood of meeting the criteria can differ depending on industry concentration and other factors. Although there are many factors at play, if unemployed workers are staying home because of unemployment benefits, one might expect states with a higher share of their unemployed receiving benefits to see a lower share of their unemployed re-entering the workforce. Yet, from March to April, we do not see that pattern. Read the brief