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Cases were down and deaths were up as the map changed

There were at least 1.4 million new known COVID-19 cases in the US in August, down 23.9% from the 1.9 million cases in July. COVID-19 related deaths were up 18.3% from 25,500 in July to 30,151 in August. By the end of August, the cumulative count of cases was 5,977,636 and deaths were 182,169.

New known cases for the month dropped in 31 states and Washington, DC, in August, including in states with the highest case rates in July.

Arizona recorded 1,302 cases per 100,000 people in July. In August, Arizona had 382 new known cases per 100,000 people.

Florida, which had July’s highest case rate (1,480 per 100,000 people), had its rate decrease more than half in August to 713 per 100,000 people.

COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents by month

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While cases dropped nationally, deaths rose in 31 states between July and August. Texas, the state with the most deaths in July with 4,188, had 5,965 deaths in August, a 42.5% increase. Meanwhile, deaths decreased by 35.1% in Arizona, from 2,060 to 1,337.

COVID-19 deaths in each state by month

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Five states — Hawaii, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and West Virginia — which together account for less than 2% of all known COVID-19 cases, hit a high at the end of August for their 7-day average of cases per 100,000 people.

7-day average of known COVID-19 cases in selected states

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While deaths increased in August, hospitalizations decreased

Department of Health and Human Services data compiled directly from hospitals estimates that 67,155 hospital beds, 9.9% of the US total, were occupied by COVID-19 patients on July 29. By August 28, that estimate fell to 44,931 hospitalized COVID-19 patients who occupied about 6.5% of all hospital beds.

US hospital bed usage

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At the state level, Texas and Florida continue to have the most COVID-19 hospitalizations, with 5,714 and 5,592 respectively on August 27. Both had over 10,000 on July 28.
On August 27, Georgia led all states with 21% of about 13,900 inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. On July 28, coronavirus patients occupied an estimated 29.9% of Georgia's inpatient beds.

Hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients

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Fewer workers are filing for traditional state-based unemployment insurance, but 29.2 million people claimed some form of unemployment benefits in August

The latest data from the Department of Labor (DOL) shows that 881,000 people filed new unemployment insurance claims using traditional state-run programs the week of August 29, That’s just the second week since March that fewer than a million workers filed such claims and well below the 6.6 million peak the week of April 4.

While that data point is a significant indicator of the state of unemployment nationwide other unemployment insurance programs, including two created in response to the pandemic, offer a broader picture of how many people are receiving such benefits.

There were 29.2 million unemployment insurance claims for all programs the week of August 15, according to the DOL, down 11.3% from a high of 32.9 million the week of June 20.

Weekly Unemployment Insurance claims

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The types of unemployment benefits people receive has shifted. Compared to the 22.7 million people who claimed regular state unemployment insurance at its peak the week of May 9, the 13.8 million people who received those benefits the week of August 15 did so without the flat $600 a week increase for all beneficiaries that expired July 31. That’s down 39.3% from its high.

About 13.6 million people were receiving benefits the week of August 15 under Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), a federal unemployment insurance program provided to the self-employed and those who wouldn’t otherwise qualify for state unemployment insurance. That’s down 5.5% from a high of 14.3 million the week of June 20.

Meanwhile, participation in the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) hit its weekly high of 1.4 million the week of August 8. The federal program extends unemployment benefits for those who have exhausted their state unemployment insurance benefits.

Though each state has its own policies, workers generally get up to 26 weeks, or six months, in regular benefits. As September marks the sixth month since the pandemic started affecting the economy, PEUC data may indicate if people are going for a long time without jobs. As of July, the median weeks of unemployment was 15 weeks, at its highest level since 2014.

Median weeks of unemployment

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Both PUA and PEUC are set to expire December 31.

Overall spending is returning to pre-pandemic levels, but leisure spending is now focused more on staying in, not going out

The Bureau of Economic Analysis is tracking card transaction data to estimate overall spending in the pandemic, comparing actual behavior to the expected amount of spending based on the week and month, as well as annual trends. Total retail and food spending has stabilized near expected levels, but Americans are still vacationing and eating out less than before. Spending on accommodations is 52 percentage points below normal, while spending on amusement, gambling, and recreation is down 39.7 percentage points. Spending at bars and restaurants is 29.2 percentage points short of expected.

Where are Americans spending more? Spending on sporting goods, hobby, and musical instrument stores, as well as bookstores, is 47.2 percentage points above normal. Spending on home furnishings is up by 26 points, and spending on building materials and garden equipment is up by 20.7 points.

Amid the pandemic, most children are returning to school online this fall

Out of the 16.2 million K-12 students enrolled in the 225 largest public school districts, 10.5 million are going back to school using full remote learning. Those districts have a range of plans on how and when students might return to the classroom.

Estimated number of students going back to school in the 225 largest public school districts

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Another 3.2 million schoolchildren are returning to in-person instruction, while the rest are beginning with a hybrid model that balances online learning with in-person components. Read more on back-to-school policies for the largest public school districts and compare district demographics, internet access, and the number of grandparents living with school-age children.

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