Mapping Unemployment Claims in Hawai’i


By Justin Tyndall

The labor market impact of COVID-19 is likely to vary across different areas of Hawai’i. Using new data on a sample of 150,000 initial unemployment claims from the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, we created a map that provides a first indication of the severity of the labor market downturn, organized by zip code.  The map displays the number of claims as a percentage of the number of workers living in each zip code. Claims appear to be more concentrated on the neighbor islands than on Oahu. Additionally, claims are clustered in zip codes where the tourism industry is a particularly important source of employment. Understanding the spatial distribution of COVID-19’s economic impact will be important for the efficient organization of relief efforts.

The sample of initial unemployment insurance claims was provided by Scott Murakami, Director of the Department of Labor, to state Senator Donovan Dela Cruz, chairman of the Senate Special Committee on COVID-19. The figures were first reported in a recent article appearing in the Star Advertiser. Unfortunately, we do not have any other information about the claims data, and because it is a sample, it may not be fully representative of the population of claims or their distribution across zip codes. The map will be updated if more data becomes available.

Data available here

11 thoughts on “Mapping Unemployment Claims in Hawai’i”

  1. Gil Keith-Agaran

    Will you be able to break this data down by census tracts? Some constituents are curious about what that would show.

    1. If we gain access to census tract level data we can provide a similar visualization. At this point, we only have access to the data at the Zip Code level and therefore can’t show anything at a finer level of geography.

  2. Gil Keith-Agaran

    Another comment from a constituent: “I’d be curious for them to possibly do a series of maps to also show what percentage of the population is counted as part of the workforce as well as what is the absolute percentage of unemployment. If an area has an already high unemployment situation, it may have a smaller increase in UI claims at this point but still be suffering from major unemployment. . . .”

    1. This is a very good point. The map captures the marginal effect of the downturn, which is different than the distribution of overall unemployment. We will think about incorporating this type analysis as we start to get more detailed data.

  3. Thanks very much for sharing this important data visualization. Could you please explain why there’s no data for certain zip codes, such as 96740 (Kailua-Kona)?

    1. Constructing worker counts at the zip code level resulted in a few zip codes being dropped from the analysis. However, 96740 is now included.

  4. Thank you for this information! I have a question. I noticed that the initial UI claim to workforce rate for zip code 96714 on Kauaʻi County was over 92 percent, 40 percent higher than the next highest zip code and much higher than the average. Is that accurate? Is there any other information you can share to explain the data for that zip code?

    Mahalo, Kawika

    1. The numbers are reported claims divided by the US Census Bureau estimate of the number of workers living in that zip code. For 96714 these figures are 296 and 314 respectively. My best guess is that the 314 worker estimate from the Census Bureau is an undercount of the true workforce size in that zip and that the true percentage is far below 90%.

  5. There is no clarification on whether the data reflects where the worker lives , as opposed to where the worker’s job is located. For example, many workers commute to a tourist area. What does the zip code reflect?

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