More than one billion weeks of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits have been paid through combined State and Federal UI programs since the start of the pandemic. If measured by the weekly Department of Labor report on UI benefits, it has been 44 weeks since the March 21, 2020, report that claims started to jump as a result of the pandemic and related economic impact, but one only needs to look back over the past 40 weeks through April 18 to reach the one billion mark.
Figure 1 shows how the number of UI recipients has varied from one week to the next over the 40-week period ending January 16, 2021. This staggering amount of UI assistance has been the result of an average of roughly 25 million UI recipients per week over these 40 weeks.
Figure 2 shows that the average of 25 million jobless workers per week amounts to more than all of the workers employed in each of several sectors of the U.S. economy in 2019. The number of UI recipients per week has been more than three times the employment of the entire Construction sector, almost twice the entire Manufacturing sector, about 1.5 times the entire Leisure and Hospitality or Retail sectors, and slightly more than the entire Education and Health sector.