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Pittsburgh Perspectives  

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Monday, June 08, 2020  08:00 AM  (37)

Tracking regional unemployment claims

The most recent data from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry show that claims for unemployment insurance (UI) compensation in the Pittsburgh region remained at historic levels through the end of May. For the week ending May 30, 2020 the seven-county Pittsburgh region recorded 4,693 initial claims for UI compensation, but the region also had 191,792 continued claims.  The combine total of 196,485 UI claims for the week is an increase of 31,944 from the week prior and only slightly below the region’s peak of 204,742 UI claims recorded for the week ending May 16, 2020.  

Weekly Unemployment Claims in the Pittsburgh MSA


An initial UI claim is a claim filed by an unemployed individual after a separation from an employer. Not all initial applications are eventually deemed eligible for UI compensation. The number of continued claims represents those who have already filed an initial claim and who have experienced a week of unemployment and then filed a continued claim to claim benefits for that week of unemployment. While the number of continued UI claims have sustained high levels, the number of initial UI claims in the Pittsburgh region has dropped significantly from peaks reached during March, but remain at levels much higher than typical earlier in the year.

The total number of UI claims at the end of May was equivalent to approximately 17% of the region’s total employment level as of February 2020, prior to the onset of most COVID-19 related economic slowdown. Note that the most recent data includes revisions to past data. Shifts in the number of unemployment claims may reflect denials of initial applications, including some workers who are eligible to receive benefits under the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program which are not reflected in these numbers. 

Continued Unemployment Insurance (UI) Claims - Pittsburgh MSA Counties

  Week Ending  
County May 23 May 30 Change
Allegheny 82,769 101,024 +18,255
Armstrong 4,219 4,891 +672
Beaver 12,705 14,758 +2,053
Butler 11,258 13,806 +2,548
Fayette 9,046 10,682 +1,636
Washington 14,128 17,000 +2,872
Westmoreland 24,766 29,631 +4,865
Pittsburgh MSA Total 158,891 191,792 +32,901


The Pittsburgh region sustained high levels of unemployment claims through the initial phase of reopening following the mandated shutdown of certain business activity due to COVID-19 health concerns. Most counties in the Pittsburgh region shifted to the "Yellow" phase of reopening as of May 15th, which partially lifted initial restrictions first mandated in March. Most regional counties shifted to the "Green" phase of reopening, which lifted most business restrictions, as of June 5.  UI claims here through the week ending May 30 reflect labor force conditions prior to the recent shift into the "Green" phase of reopening.

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