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Logo for Special Series: COVID Hardship Watch

Tracking the COVID-19 Recession’s Effects on Food, Housing, and Employment Hardships

UPDATED
January 27, 2021
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The unemployment rate is very high and millions report that their households did not get enough to eat or are not caught up on rent payments. We are able to track the extent of this hardship thanks to nearly real-time data from several sources on the unfolding economic crisis.

The impacts of the pandemic and the economic fallout have been widespread, but are particularly prevalent among Black, Latino,[1] Indigenous, and immigrant households. These disproportionate impacts reflect harsh, longstanding inequities — often stemming from structural racism — in education, employment, housing, and health care that the current crisis is exacerbating.

The data below, which we will update periodically, drive home the need for substantial, continued relief measures. The extent and severity of continued hardships like hunger, eviction, and homelessness will depend on whether such relief is robust and reaches those in need, as well as the trajectory of the pandemic and the pace of economic recovery. The implications for children in particular are significant: households with children face especially high hardship rates, which research has shown can have serious effects on children’s long-term health and financial security.

Emerging Data Show High Rates of Hardship

The Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, launched in April 2020, has provided nearly real-time weekly data on how the unprecedented health and economic crisis is affecting the nation. Data from this and other sources, such as unemployment data from Census’ Current Population Survey and the Department of Labor, show that tens of millions of people are out of work and struggling to afford adequate food and pay the rent. The impacts on children are large (see figures 1, 4, and 5).

For more on our methodology and data by state, see tables 1-5 at the end of this document.

Difficulty Getting Enough Food

Data from several sources show a dramatic increase in the number of households struggling to put enough food on the table. Nearly 24 million adults — 11 percent of all adults in the country — reported that their household sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat in the last seven days, according to Household Pulse Survey data collected January 6–18. This was far above the pre-pandemic rate: a recent survey released by the Agriculture Department found that 3.4 percent of adults reported that their household had “not enough to eat” at some point over the full 12 months of 2019.[2] When asked why, 80 percent said they “couldn’t afford to buy more food,” rather than (or in addition to) non-financial factors such as lack of transportation or safety concerns due to the pandemic.

Figure 1
For Nearly 1 in 6 Adults With Children, Household Lacked Sufficient Food in Last 7 Days

Adults in households with children were likelier to report that the household didn’t get enough to eat: 15 percent, compared to 9 percent for households without children. (See Figure 1.) And 10 to 15 percent of adults with children reported that their children sometimes or often didn’t eat enough in the last seven days because they couldn’t afford it, well above the pre-pandemic figure. Households typically first scale back on food for adults before cutting back on what children have to eat. (The 10-15 percent range reflects the different ways to measure food hardship in the Household Pulse Survey.)

Also, analysis of more detailed data from the Pulse survey collected December 9–21 shows that between 9 and 12 million children live in a household where children didn’t eat enough because the household couldn’t afford it. These figures are approximations; the Pulse Survey was designed to provide data on adult well-being, not precise counts of children.

Black and Latino adults were more than twice as likely as white adults to report that their household did not get enough to eat: 19 percent and 21 percent, respectively, compared to 8 percent of white adults. Adults who identify as American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, or as multiracial, taken together, were also twice as likely as white adults to report that their household did not get enough to eat, at 17 percent. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2
Black and Latino Households Likelier to Experience Food Insufficiency During Pandemic

Inability to Pay Rent or Mortgage

The Household Pulse data also show that millions are not caught up on their rent or mortgage payments. Unfortunately, there are two concerns with the housing questions. First, the Census Bureau reworded the rent payment question starting with the late-August survey, making the results non-comparable to earlier weeks of the survey. Second, Census at the same time made the entire survey longer, which led more respondents to skip questions toward the end of the survey, including the housing questions. This “non-response” is higher among groups that are younger, have lower levels of education, and identify as Black or Latino — groups that are more likely to struggle to afford rent, due to longstanding inequities often stemming from structural racism in education, employment, and housing. For these reasons, the Pulse data likely understate the number of people struggling to pay rent.

Even with these issues, however, the data indicate that millions are having difficulty paying rent. An estimated 15.1 million adults living in rental housing —1 in 5 adult renters — were not caught up on rent, according to data collected January 6–18.[3] Here, too, renters of color were more likely to report that their household was not caught up on rent: 36 percent of Black renters, 29 percent of Latino renters, and 16 percent of Asian renters said they were not caught up on rent, compared to 12 percent of white renters. The rate was 27 percent for American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and multiracial adults taken together. (See Figure 3.)

Figure 3
1 in 5 Renters Not Caught Up on Rent During Pandemic, With Black, Asian, and Latino Renters Facing Greatest Hardship

In addition, 31 percent of renters who are parents or otherwise live with children reported that they were not caught up on rent, compared to 14 percent among adults not living with anyone under age 18. (See Figure 4.)

Figure 4
Renters Living With Children Are Twice as Likely to Not Be Caught Up on Rent

Children in renter households also face high rates of food hardship. One in 3 children living in rental housing live in a household that didn’t have enough to eat, according to data for December 9–21 (the latest detailed data that allow us to make these estimates). And more than 4 in 10 children living in rental housing live in a household that either isn’t getting enough to eat or is not caught up on rent. (See Figure 5.)

Figure 5
More Than 4 in 10 Children in Renter Households Face Food and/or Housing Hardship

While households that don’t rent their homes but have mortgage payments typically have higher incomes than renters, they, too, can face difficulties, especially if they have lost their jobs or seen their incomes fall significantly. An estimated 10.3 million adults are in a household that is not caught up in its mortgage payment.[4]

Difficulty Covering Household Expenses

Since late August, the Household Pulse Survey has provided data on the overall number of adults struggling to cover usual household expenses such as food, rent or mortgage, car payments, medical expenses, or student loans. More than 80 million adults — 35 percent of all adults in the country — reported it was somewhat or very difficult for their household to cover usual expenses in the past seven days, according to data collected January 6–18. While we don’t have comparable data from before the pandemic, the data noted above on rising levels of food hardship over pre-pandemic rates suggest that economic insecurity has increased.

Adults in households with children were more likely to report difficulty paying for usual expenses: 43 percent, compared to 30 percent for households without children. Financial hardship can have serious effects on children’s long-term health and education, research shows.[5]

In addition, Black and Latino adults reported difficulty covering expenses at higher rates: 51 percent for each group, compared to 33 percent for Asian adults and 28 percent for white adults. (See Figure 6.) Although the survey does not provide data for other individual racial groups, 48 percent of American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and multiracial adults taken together reported difficulty paying for usual expenses.

Figure 6
More Than 1 in 3 Adults Had Trouble Paying for Usual Household Expenses in Last 7 Days

An estimated 48 percent of children live in households that have trouble covering usual expenses, according to our analysis of detailed data from the Pulse survey collected December 9–21. They include 66 percent of children in Black households, 58 percent of children in Latino households, 39 percent of children in white households, and 36 percent of children in Asian households. (The Pulse survey asks the race of the adult respondent, not the children.)

Unemployment Is High, With Job Losses Concentrated in Low-Paid Industries

The unemployment rate jumped in April 2020 to a level not seen since the 1930s — and still stood at 6.7 percent in December. Some 9.9 percent of Black workers and 9.3 percent of Latino workers were unemployed in December, compared to 6.0 percent of white workers. Unemployment has also risen faster among workers who were born outside the United States (this includes individuals who are now U.S. citizens) than U.S.-born workers. Changes in unemployment going forward will likely heavily depend on both how well the nation does in controlling the spread of the virus and the steps policymakers take to provide effective stimulus that boosts overall demand for goods and services.

The majority of jobs lost in the crisis have been in industries that pay low average wages, with the lowest-paying industries accounting for 30 percent of all jobs but 58 percent of the jobs lost from February to December, the latest month of Labor Department employment data. Jobs in low-paying industries were down more than twice as much between February and December 2020 (11.3 percent) as jobs in medium-wage industries (4.9 percent) and nearly four times as much as in high-wage industries (3.0 percent). (See Figure 7.)

Figure 7
Job Losses Largest in Low-Wage Industries

Data from the Census Bureau’s monthly Current Population Survey released December 9 provide more detail on jobless workers and their family members:

  • Some 25 million people either met the official definition of “unemployed” (meaning they actively looked for work in the last four weeks or were on temporary layoff) or lived with an unemployed family member in November. This figure includes 6 million children.
  • The official definition of “unemployed” leaves out some workers sidelined by the crisis, such as those who are absent from their jobs without pay and jobless workers who want a job but aren’t currently looking for one. These include owners of businesses shut by the pandemic and people who have health concerns, are sick or caring for a sick relative, or need to care for their children because school or child care is closed. If we also include the family members of these workers, as many as 48 million people, or 1 in 7 people in the country, live in families with a sidelined worker.

State-by-State Food, Housing, and Employment Hardship Data

Data by state show that hardship is widespread. The following tables provide state-level data on:

  • the share of adults reporting that their household didn’t have enough to eat (Table 1);
  • the share of adults saying children in their household were not eating enough because they couldn’t afford enough (Table 1);
  • the increase in SNAP caseloads (Table 2);
  • the share of adults not caught up on rent (Table 3);
  • the share of adults saying their household had difficulty paying for their usual expenses (Table 4); and
  • the three-month moving average unemployment rate and recent jobless claim data (Table 5).

For data from the Pulse survey we average data collected November 25–December 7 and December 9–21 to improve the accuracy of the state estimates.

Differences in Pulse hardship rates between states may reflect sampling error, so we suggest not drawing strong conclusions from modest differences between states. The data do show, however, that high levels of hardship are widespread across the country.

Difficulty Getting Enough Food

The Pulse survey asks adult respondents if their household did not have enough to eat and if children in the household were not eating enough because the household couldn’t afford it.

TABLE 1
High Shares of Households Report Difficulty Getting Enough Food

Among adults; data collected November 25–December 21.

How to read this table: In the United States, over 28 million adults reported that their household sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat in the last seven days. This represents 13 percent of all adults in the country. Nearly 14 million adults living with children reported that “the children were not eating enough because we just couldn’t afford enough food.” This represents 17 percent of adults living with children.

  Adults Reporting That Household Didn’t Have Enough to Eat Adults Reporting That Children in Household Weren’t Eating
Enough Because
Couldn’t Afford Enough
State Number As a Percent of Adults Number As a Percent of Adults Living with Children
United States 28,517,000 13% 13,875,000 17%
Alabama 439,000 14% 196,000 16%
Alaska 63,000 13% 32,000 16%
Arizona 695,000 14% 262,000 14%
Arkansas 336,000 18% 156,000 21%
California 3,447,000 13% 1,827,000 19%
Colorado 443,000 11% 204,000 14%
Connecticut 261,000 11% 115,000 13%
Delaware 87,000 13% 40,000 17%
District of Columbia 54,000 11% 36,000 25%
Florida 2,105,000 14% 957,000 19%
Georgia 919,000 13% 457,000 16%
Hawai’i 123,000 13% 79,000 20%
Idaho 135,000 11% 61,000 13%
Illinois 1,060,000 13% 466,000 14%
Indiana 545,000 12% 235,000 14%
Iowa 217,000 11% 119,000 15%
Kansas 256,000 13% 107,000 15%
Kentucky 429,000 14% 233,000 20%
Louisiana 552,000 19% 259,000 21%
Maine 66,000 7% 24,000 8%
Maryland 626,000 15% 325,000 21%
Massachusetts 446,000 10% 251,000 16%
Michigan 877,000 13% 446,000 19%
Minnesota 348,000 9% 168,000 12%
Mississippi 329,000 18% 192,000 25%
Missouri 495,000 12% 221,000 14%
Montana 95,000 13% 37,000 15%
Nebraska 129,000 10% 69,000 14%
Nevada 308,000 15% 163,000 20%
New Hampshire 89,000 9% 35,000 10%
New Jersey 628,000 11% 369,000 16%
New Mexico 210,000 15% 107,000 19%
New York 1,781,000 14% 889,000 19%
North Carolina 957,000 14% 443,000 16%
North Dakota 42,000 8% 14,000 8%
Ohio 1,043,000 13% 380,000 14%
Oklahoma 437,000 17% 176,000 16%
Oregon 364,000 12% 126,000 12%
Pennsylvania 1,058,000 12% 470,000 16%
Rhode Island 80,000 11% 34,000 14%
South Carolina 488,000 14% 268,000 18%
South Dakota 51,000 9% 24,000 10%
Tennessee 643,000 14% 297,000 17%
Texas 2,927,000 16% 1,597,000 19%
Utah 180,000 9% 92,000 10%
Vermont 34,000 8% 17,000 12%
Virginia 609,000 11% 288,000 14%
Washington 436,000 8% 225,000 12%
West Virginia 172,000 14% 95,000 21%
Wisconsin 360,000 9% 175,000 12%
Wyoming 43,000 11% 19,000 12%

Note: Figures are averages of data collected November 25–December 7 and December 9–21. In the latest data, collected December 9–21, 13.7 percent of all adults reported that their household “sometimes” or “often” in the last seven days had “not enough to eat,” while 16.7 percent of adults living with children reported that the children sometimes or often in the last seven days were “not eating enough because we just couldn't afford enough food.” As recommended by the Census Bureau, percentages exclude persons not replying to the question.

Source: Calculated by Center on Budget and Policy Priorities from Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey published tables “food2b,” “food3b,” and “food5,” for survey weeks 20 and 21, https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/household-pulse-survey/data.html

Table 2 shows the number of SNAP participants based on recent data available for each state through August compared to February 2020, the last month before the economic effects of the pandemic hit. Available data suggest that 6-7 million more people have applied and been approved for benefits since February, a 17 percent increase nationally. This rise is unprecedented: at the onset of the Great Recession it took 17 months to add this number of people to SNAP. While SNAP participation in most states is still substantially lower than during the peak months after the Great Recession, the increase so far due to COVID-19 has been rapid.

Based on this state data the number of people nationally participating in SNAP appears to have leveled at about 43 million over May through August, though in some states over the summer it continued to grow and in others it fell. The differences in the trends in caseloads across states reflect multiple factors including:

  • Differences in job losses across the months of the pandemic and the degree to which businesses were operating;
  • How quickly states adapted their SNAP application processes to almost entirely remote communications (i.e., online and telephone) and the degree to which they made use of flexibilities offered to help them manage their workloads;[6]
  • How many people received unemployment insurance since the pandemic began in the state and how quickly states processed applications for unemployment insurance (UI) in the spring and early summer (which would have provided income to people who otherwise might have qualified for SNAP);

The slower growth over the summer months may reflect states taking higher income from UI benefits into account (for households that were approved for UI in late April or May), in addition to increased earnings from the economy partially reopening in some places. But UI income fell substantially as a result of the expiration of the temporary $600-per-week federal UI supplement at the end of July, which may have resulted in more SNAP applications in August and September. SNAP caseloads also shrink when the economy is strong, as they did in the years leading up to the COVID-19-related downturn.

TABLE 2
The Number of SNAP Participants Increased Substantially in Almost All States
Preliminary, subject to change. From state- or USDA-reported data, as of October 21, 2020, in thousands
State February 2020 April 2020 May 2020 June 2020 July 2020 August 2020 Percent change:
February to May (or April if May data not available) February to August (or July if August data not available)
Alabama 705 740 755 756 747 751 7% 7%
Alaska 81 86 88 88 88 89 9% 11%
Arizona 801 867 915 902 924 937 14% 17%
Arkansas 318 375 393       24%  
California 4,031 4,451 4,689 4,801 4,600 4,600 16% 14%
Colorado 431 507 524 539 552 534 21% 24%
Connecticut 362 382 388 387 388 381 7% 5%
Delaware * 116 126         9%  
District of Columbia * 109 118         9%  
Florida 2,684 3,212 3,661 3,816 3,845 3,871 36% 44%
Georgia 1,278 1,603 1,707       34%  
Guam * 41 52         28%  
Hawai’i 152 171 178 180 177   17% 16%
Idaho 149 153 151 153 147 145 2% -3%
Illinois 1,748 1,929 2,032       16%  
Indiana 617 680 715 775 844 726 16% 18%
Iowa 296 330 338 308 301 312 14% 5%
Kansas 190 202 209 213 208 207 10% 9%
Kentucky 482 593 624 653 602 599 29% 24%
Louisiana 770 812 843 853 857 866 10% 12%
Maine 165 176 180 179 176 174 9% 6%
Maryland 591 690 782 845 854 834 32% 41%
Massachusetts 757 882 911 912 852 872 20% 15%
Michigan 1,176 1,499 1,528 1,344 1,235 1,196 30% 2%
Minnesota 370 404 424 426 416 425 14% 15%
Mississippi 424 457 479 445 396 400 13% -6%
Missouri 657 752 766 773 778 772 17% 17%
Montana 106 108 110 109 110 108 4% 3%
Nebraska* 153 166         8%  
Nevada 412 497 512 465 466 469 24% 14%
New Hampshire* 72 77         7%  
New Jersey 661 683 718 725 735   9% 11%
New Mexico 445 481 492 493 492 493 11% 11%
New York 2,560 2,683 2,736 2,774 2,750   7% 7%
North Carolina 1,224 1,329 1,383 1,407 1,432 1,466 13% 20%
North Dakota* 48 51         8%  
Ohio 1,326 1,632 1,610 1,559 1,518   21% 14%
Oklahoma 576 598 608       6%  
Oregon 586 670 691 706 713 703 18% 20%
Pennsylvania 1,737 1,861 1,907 1,904 1,839 1,843 10% 6%
Rhode Island* 146           N/A  
South Carolina 568 593 625 639 616 617 10% 9%
South Dakota 78 79 79 78 78 78 2% 0%
Tennessee 844 905 891 876 844 855 6% 1%
Texas 3,284 3,708 3,899 3,932 3,911 3,941 19% 20%
Utah 170 177 166 160 158 163 -2% -4%
Vermont* 68 72         7%  
Virginia 680 747 767 774 785 782 13% 15%
Virgin Islands* 20 22         9%  
Washington 801 898 923       15%  
West Virginiaa 282 307 299 295 282 280 6% 0%
Wisconsin 598 687 697 689 684 724 17% 21%
Wyoming* 26 27         4%  
Total these states (or territories) 36,868
(53 states)
41,300
(52)
42,400
(43)
36,900b
(38)
36,400b
(37)
31,200b
(31)
17% 17%
% U.S. participants in these states 100% 99.9% 98% 85% 85% 73%    
Extrapolated to U.S. 36,868 41,400 43,200 43,800b 42,700b 43,000b    

* Preliminary Department of Agriculture (USDA) data. All others are state-reported figures. Because for February we have combined data from different sources, the state February figures do not add to USDA’s February national total. Historically, the data states reported have differed only slightly from the USDA data, but for April 2020, the most recent month for which USDA has posted preliminary data, there appear to be data reporting issues in about one-fifth of the states. Because of the data reporting issues USDA has not yet published date for May or subsequent months.

a Estimated individuals receiving SNAP based on reported households.

b These estimates for June through August 2020 should be viewed with caution as they rely on data for fewer than 40 states with 85 percent or less of total SNAP participants. The actual national figures may be higher or lower than represented here.

Sources: Compilation of state-reported number of SNAP participants. CBPP, “SNAP Online: A Review of State Government SNAP Websites,” April 23, 2020, https://www.cbpp.org/research/food-assistance/snap-online-a-review-of-state-government-snap-websites, includes links to the data on each state’s website for the states that post them. We also have obtained data for May from a handful of states that do not post their monthly data. The U.S. total for February 2020 and the February and April 2020 figures for states that do not share more recent data are from the Food and Nutrition Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, “SNAP Data Tables,” FY16 through FY20 National View Summary, https://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap.

Not Caught Up on Rent

Table 3 shows the estimated number of adults whose household was not caught up on rent by state. The Census Bureau reworded the Pulse survey’s rent payment question starting with the late-August survey, so these rent hardship figures results are not comparable to data from earlier weeks of the Pulse survey. In addition, Census at the same time made the entire survey longer, which led more respondents to skip questions toward the end of the survey, including the housing questions. Non-response is higher among groups that are younger, have lower levels of education, and identify as Black or Latino — groups that are more likely to struggle to afford rent, due to longstanding inequities that often stem from structural racism in education, employment, and housing. Therefore, the Pulse data likely understate the number of people struggling to pay rent.

TABLE 3
1 in 6 Renters Nationwide Not Caught Up on Rent
Among adults in rental housing; data collected November 25–December 21
  Not Caught Up On Rent
  Estimated Number Percent
Alabama 211,000 24%
Alaska 29,000 19%
Arizona 262,000 16%
Arkansas 123,000 20%
California 2,434,000 20%
Colorado 240,000 18%
Connecticut 125,000 16%
Delaware 49,000 26%
District of Columbia 60,000 21%
Florida 1,154,000 23%
Georgia 517,000 22%
Hawai’i 57,000 16%
Idaho 34,000 11%
Illinois 612,000 23%
Indiana 262,000 21%
Iowa 103,000 18%
Kansas 103,000 17%
Kentucky 169,000 19%
Louisiana 291,000 32%
Maine 33,000 14%
Maryland 299,000 23%
Massachusetts 318,000 19%
Michigan 229,000 13%
Minnesota 142,000 15%
Mississippi 126,000 23%
Missouri 205,000 17%
Montana 21,000 10%
Nebraska 39,000 10%
Nevada 170,000 19%
New Hampshire 51,000 21%
New Jersey 454,000 21%
New Mexico 67,000 16%
New York 1,213,000 20%
North Carolina 422,000 18%
North Dakota 27,000 14%
Ohio 467,000 19%
Oklahoma 225,000 27%
Oregon 179,000 17%
Pennsylvania 552,000 22%
Rhode Island 42,000 16%
South Carolina 178,000 19%
South Dakota 28,000 18%
Tennessee 347,000 24%
Texas 1,301,000 19%
Utah 61,000 11%
Vermont 19,000 17%
Virginia 287,000 15%
Washington 227,000 12%
West Virginia 48,000 18%
Wisconsin 158,000 13%
Wyoming 12,000 12%

Note: Figures are averages of data collected November 25–December 7 and December 9–21. To adjust for non-response in the Pulse survey, the estimated number is calculated as the Pulse survey’s estimated share not caught up on rent multiplied by the total number of adult renters ages 18 and older from the American Community Survey.

Source: Calculated by Center on Budget and Policy Priorities from Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey published table “housing1b” for survey weeks 20 and 21, https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/household-pulse-survey/data.html; and 2019 American Community Survey public use file.

Difficulty Covering Usual Household Expenses

The Pulse survey asks adult respondents if their household had difficulty paying for usual expenses such as food, rent or mortgage, car payments, medical expenses, or student loans in the last seven days. Table 4 shows the estimated number and percent of adults reporting that it was somewhat or very difficult for their household to pay for their usual expenses in the last seven days.

TABLE 4
1 in 3 Adults Nationwide Has Difficulty Covering Usual Household Expenses
Among adults; data collected November 25–December 21
  Difficulty Covering Usual Household Expenses
  Number Percent
United States 87,584,000 37%
Alabama 1,358,000 38%
Alaska 183,000 36%
Arizona 1,947,000 36%
Arkansas 855,000 39%
California 11,406,000 40%
Colorado 1,539,000 35%
Connecticut 849,000 32%
Delaware 241,000 34%
District of Columbia 146,000 28%
Florida 6,332,000 39%
Georgia 2,878,000 38%
Hawai’i 404,000 39%
Idaho 383,000 29%
Illinois 2,989,000 33%
Indiana 1,774,000 37%
Iowa 688,000 30%
Kansas 673,000 33%
Kentucky 1,192,000 37%
Louisiana 1,456,000 44%
Maine 291,000 28%
Maryland 1,525,000 34%
Massachusetts 1,487,000 29%
Michigan 2,604,000 36%
Minnesota 1,208,000 29%
Mississippi 925,000 45%
Missouri 1,572,000 35%
Montana 267,000 34%
Nebraska 423,000 31%
Nevada 1,046,000 45%
New Hampshire 331,000 32%
New Jersey 2,348,000 37%
New Mexico 670,000 43%
New York 5,667,000 40%
North Carolina 2,694,000 35%
North Dakota 146,000 27%
Ohio 2,834,000 33%
Oklahoma 1,185,000 42%
Oregon 1,188,000 37%
Pennsylvania 3,264,000 35%
Rhode Island 283,000 36%
South Carolina 1,451,000 38%
South Dakota 171,000 27%
Tennessee 1,835,000 37%
Texas 8,563,000 42%
Utah 592,000 27%
Vermont 145,000 31%
Virginia 1,997,000 32%
Washington 1,692,000 29%
West Virginia 490,000 37%
Wisconsin 1,247,000 29%
Wyoming 148,000 35%

Note: Figures are averages of data collected November 25–December 7 and December 9–21. In the latest data, collected December 9–21, 90 million adults nationwide (38 percent) reported difficulty paying for usual household expenses.

Source: Calculated by Center on Budget and Policy Priorities from Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey published table “spending1” for survey weeks 20 and 21, https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/household-pulse-survey/data.html

High Unemployment

Table 5 provides state-by-state data on the unemployment rate over the October-December period and data on ongoing unemployment benefit claims.

Unemployment in most states has been highly elevated since April, as has the number of people claiming unemployment insurance benefits.

TABLE 5
Unemployment, Jobless Claims High Across the Country
States Unemployment rate (October-December average)a Current jobless benefits claims for week ending January 2b
Alabama 4.7 97,000
Alaska 6.0 36,000
Arizona 7.8 208,000
Arkansas 5.6 27,000
California 8.7 1,906,000
Colorado 7.1 184,000
Connecticut 7.4 182,000
Delaware 5.3 29,000
District of Columbia 7.9 60,000
Florida 6.3 175,000
Georgia 5.3 268,000
Hawai’i 11.3 107,000
Idaho 4.9 29,000
Illinois 7.3 752,000
Indiana 5.0 201,000
Iowa 3.5 80,000
Kansas 4.6 132,000
Kentucky 6.3 86,000
Louisiana 8.4 232,000
Maine 5.1 41,000
Maryland 6.9 308,000
Massachusetts 7.2 560,000
Michigan 6.9 574,000
Minnesota 4.5 324,000
Mississippi 6.6 87,000
Missouri 5.0 124,000
Montana 4.7 39,000
Nebraska 3.0 19,000
Nevada 10.5 225,000
New Hampshire 4.0 42,000
New Jersey 8.6 671,000
New Mexico 7.8 59,000
New York 8.6 2,411,000
North Carolina 6.2 311,000
North Dakota 4.4 14,000
Ohio 5.8 396,000
Oklahoma 5.9 63,000
Oregon 6.4 289,000
Pennsylvania 7.0 889,000
Puerto Rico 8.6 248,000
Rhode Island 7.5 78,000
South Carolina 4.4 170,000
South Dakota 3.4 7,000
Tennessee 6.3 172,000
Texas 7.4 754,000
Utah 4.0 27,000
Vermont 3.1 31,000
Virgin Islands 10.2* 2,000
Virginia 5.0 239,000
Washington 6.3 302,000
West Virginia 6.3 54,000
Wisconsin 5.6 174,000
Wyoming 5.1 6,000
U.S. 6.8 14,501,000

a All rates are seasonally adjusted except for the Virgin Islands.

b Compiled from data for regular state UI benefits, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. Including other smaller programs, 15,994,519 people were claiming benefits in that week. Per GAO recommendations, the Department of Labor now says about these data, “Continued weeks claimed represent all weeks of benefits claimed during the week being reported, and do not represent weeks claimed by unique individuals.” Continued claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation fell sharply in the week ending January 2, 2021, largely reflecting a disruption in processing continued claims due to the delay in extending these programs beyond their scheduled expiration after the week ending December 26.

* Rate is not seasonally adjusted.

Source: Local Area Unemployment Statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; Labor Force, Employment and Unemployment for Virgin Islands from Virgin Islands Electronic Workforce System; Unemployment Weekly Claims Report, Department of Labor, January 21, 2021.

[1] Federal surveys generally ask respondents whether they are “of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin.” This report uses the term “Latino.”

[2] Brynne Keith-Jennings, “Food Need Very High Compared to Pre-Pandemic Levels, Making Relief Imperative,” CBPP, September 10, 2020, https://www.cbpp.org/blog/food-need-very-high-compared-to-pre-pandemic-levels-making-relief-imperative.

[3] The latest Pulse survey estimates that 10.5 million adults live in households not caught up on rent. To adjust for non-response in the survey, we apply the share not caught up on rent (20.7 percent) to the total number of adult renters (73 million) in the March 2020 Current Population Survey to calculate an adjusted estimate.

[4] The latest Pulse survey estimates that 8.7 million adults are in households not caught up on their mortgage. To adjust for non-response in the survey, we apply the share not caught up on their mortgage (10.3 percent) to the total number of adult homeowners (about 100 million) in the March 2020 Current Population Survey to calculate an adjusted estimate.

[5] Ajay Chaudry and Christopher Wimer, “Poverty is Not Just an Indicator: The Relationship Between Income, Poverty, and Child Well-Being,” Academic Pediatrics, Vol. 16 Issue 3 (April 1, 2016), https://www.academicpedsjnl.net/article/S1876-2859(15)00383-6/fulltext.

[6] The Families First Act, the first large-scale relief bill enacted in March, allowed the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide states substantial flexibility in program operations to help them manage their workloads to focus on processing new applications — flexibility that USDA had begun to phase out, but that the Continuing Resolution recently extended. “States Are Using Much-Needed Temporary Flexibility in SNAP to Respond to COVID-19 Challenges,” CBPP, updated August 6, 2020, https://www.cbpp.org/research/food-assistance/most-states-are-using-new-flexibility-in-snap-to-respond-to-covid-19; “States are Using Much-Needed Temporary Flexibility in SNAP to Respond to COVID-19 Challenges,” CBPP, Updated regularly.