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Economy in Brief

State & Pandemic Assistance Continuing Claims Total 32.5 Million; 19.9% of Labor Force
by Gerald D. Cohen  June 4, 2020

• Initial jobless claims decreased to a still extremely-elevated 1.877 million in the week ending May 30.

• Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance new filers declined to 623,073.

• Continuing claim for state programs increased to 21.5 million; PUA jumps to 10.7 million.

• Thirty-five states had insured unemployment rates above 10%, four over 20%.

Initial jobless claims for unemployment insurance decreased to 1.877 million during the week ending May 30 from a slightly upwardly-revised 2.126 million (was 2.123 million). During the last 11 weeks 42.6 million people or 27.3% of the labor force have filed new jobless claims. The Action Economics Forecast Survey anticipated 1.8 million claims.

The four-week moving average of initial claims, which smooths out week-to-week volatility, but is less important at the moment because of the rapidity of changing conditions, declined to 2.284 million from 2.609 million.

Claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which covers individuals such as the self-employed who are not qualified for regular/state unemployment insurance, decreased to 623,073 million in the week ending May 30 from an upwardly-revised 1.295 million (was 1.193 million). PUA claims totaled 6.0 million (3.9% of the labor force) in the seven weeks that data has been reported. Numbers for this and other federal programs are not seasonally adjusted.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance rose to 21.487 million in the week ending May 23, from a downwardly-revised 20.838 million (was 21.052 million). Continuing PUA claims, which are lagged an additional week, jumped to 10.741 million from 7.793 million. Thus the gap grew between the total reported PUA initial claims of 6.0 million and 10.7 million continuing filers. Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation claims increased to 209,692 in the week ending May 16. This program covers people who were unemployed before COVID but exhausted their state benefits and are now eligible to receive an additional 13 weeks of unemployment insurance, up to a total of 39 weeks.

The insured rate of unemployment rose to 14.8% in the week ending May 23. However, this data does not include the federal pandemic assistance programs. If you include the latest data available, which is lagged, the total number of continuing claims is 32.5 million which represents 19.9% of the labor force.

The state insured rates of unemployment -- which do not include federal programs -- continued to show wide variation with South Dakota at just 5.4% and Nevada at 24.9%. Thirty-five states had rates over 10%, and four states were over 20%. The largest state ranged between 6.2% for Florida and 19.3% for New York. The state rates are not seasonally adjusted.

Data on weekly unemployment claims going back to 1967 are contained in Haver's WEEKLY database, and they are summarized monthly in USECON. Data for individual states are in REGIONW. The expectations figure is from the Action Economics Forecast Survey, carried in the AS1REPNA database.

Unemployment Insurance (SA, 000s) 05/30/20 05/23/20 05/16/20 Y/Y % 2019 2018 2017
Initial Claims 1,877 2,126 2,446 753 218 221 244
  4-wk Average 2,284 2,609 3,044 -- -- -- --
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 623 1,295 1,247 -- -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 21,487 20,838 1,168 1,701 1,756 1,961
  4-week Average -- 22,446 22,669 -- -- -- --
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 10,741 -- -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 14.8 14.3

1.2
(May 2019)

1.2 1.2 1.4
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