Report: Pa.’s unemployment picture is bad – but could have been far worse | Friday Morning Coffee

May 15, 2020 7:17 am

The Department of Labor and Industry’s unemployment webpage.

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
There’s absolutely no way to paint a pretty picture when it comes to the unemployment situation in Pennsylvania.

To date, the state has paid out a staggering $7 billion in benefits, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. And nearly 27 percent of the state’s workforce — or 1.8 million of our friends, neighbors and co-workers — have now filed claims with a system that has struggled to keep pace with the demand, the Inquirer further reports.

But if there is one grain of good news in this sea of economic devastation, it’s that Pennsylvania could be faring far, far worse. The Keystone State had the 3rd smallest increase in unemployment nationwide last week, according to an updated analysis by the financial literacy site WalletHub.

To reach that conclusion, WalletHub’s analysts said they “compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on increases in unemployment claims. We used this data to rank the most impacted states in both the latest week for which we have data (May 4) and overall since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis (March 16).”

After the jump, a look at how Pennsylvania fared, according to both metrics, and how the Keystone State stacked up to its neighbors.

Source: WalletHub

Pennsylvania finished 49th nationwide in the new WalletHub analysis, the 3rd lowest increase in the country last week. The state was in 34th place overall, when looking at unemployment increases since the start of the pandemic in March.

Here’s how neighboring states compared:

Delaware: 32nd in the recent analysis, and 32nd since the start of the pandemic.
Maryland: 13th in the recent analysis, and 26th since the start of the pandemic.
New Jersey: 37th in the recent analysis, and 43rd since the start of the pandemic.
New York: 27th in the recent analysis, and 40th since the start of the pandemic.
Ohio: 35th in the recent analysis, and 20th since the start of the pandemic.
West Virginia: 43rd in the recent analysis, and 29th since the start of the pandemic.

(WalletHub graphic)

So how to help those displaced workers? One expert says the CARES Act, which sent cash payments to millions of Americans, was a start, but didn’t go far enough.

“Twelve-hundred-dollar checks are great, but they only come once. Expanded unemployment benefits are good, and should have been that way all along,” Christopher Hayes, a labor historian at Rutgers University in New Jersey, told WalletHub. “A whole lot of people are going to be shut out of health insurance, having lost whatever their employers provided. COBRA and Obamacare are too expensive for many.

“These packages will certainly not ensure full relief, as our national libertarian impulses tell us that such measures are wrong, and business interests wouldn’t allow them to go the distance anyway,” Hayes continued. “The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which temporarily provides paid sick and family leave, excludes workers at firms with more than 500 employees. That’s about half of all employed Americans. Another quarter can be easily denied benefits because they work for organizations with fewer than 50 employees. Enormous numbers of Americans will be left in the cold.”

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Our Stuff.
The Wolf administration released the names of thousands of businesses that applied for waivers from his business shutdown order. Staff Reporters Stephen Caruso and Elizabeth Hardison have the details.

As 13 more counties reopen today, Elizabeth Hardison takes stock of the state of contact tracing in the Commonwealth — a key component to a safe and healthy reopening.

Monday is the deadline to register to vote in the state’s June 2 primary election. Caruso has what you need to know.

As counties reopen, state health officials are urging parents and guardians to get their children vaccinated, Associate Editor Cassie Miller reports.

State Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine has come under fire for both her gender identity and her management of the COVID-19 pandemic. But Levine remains an icon to trans PennsylvaniansPittsburgh Correspondent Kim Lyons reports.

The tech giant Zoom, which, let’s face it, controls all our lives now, is opening an R&D outpost in PittsburghLyons also reports.

From our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune: The city schools will host a virtual graduation for outgoing seniors.

On our Commentary Page, opinion regular Ray Landis has the list of issues that older Pennsylvanians should keep in mind as they head into the voting booth — or mail in their ballots. And while the Founders were visionaries, even they couldn’t have seen Donald Trump coming, two attorneys from suburban Harrisburg write.

George W Nebinger Public School (Philadelphia Tribune photo)

In Philadelphia, a little more than half of the city’s students are showing up for class during the pandemic, the Inquirer reports.
The Incline profiles the food bank workers who are at the ‘center of the hunger storm’ in Pittsburgh.
Cumberland County state lawmakers are calling on local businesses to defy the Wolf administration’s shutdown orders, the Sentinel of Carlisle reports.
The Morning Call has the details on President Donald Trump’s visit to the Lehigh Valley on Thursday.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:

(Instagram photo)

In Philadelphia, the COVID-19 death toll has crossed 1,000 fatalitiesWHYY-FM reports.
The PA Post explains how to cast your ballot during the pandemic.
Eight of Pennsylvania’s nine Republicans on Capitol Hill released a letter Wednesday blasting Gov. Tom Wolf for his management of the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1st District, did not add his name to the letter, PoliticsPA reports.

What Goes On.
Time TBD:
 Daily COVID-19 briefing.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to state Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh; Debra Erdley of the Tribune-Review, and Ezra Thrush at PennFuture, all of whom celebrate today. Congrats and enjoy the day, friends.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s a recently discovered gem from Oasis that had been sitting in Noel Gallagher’s vaults. It’s ‘Don’t Stop.’

Friday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.’s
 writers debate the best players currently wearing the No. 88 sweater for their teams. Take a look, and cast your ballot.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.