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Economy in Brief

U.S. State Initial Claims Back Over 1 Million
by Gerald D. Cohen  August 20, 2020

• State initial jobless claims increased to 1.1 million in the week ending August 15, reversing most of the previous week's decline below 1 million.

• Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance new filers increased to 542,797.

• Continuing claims for state programs down to 14.8 million; PUA rises to 11.2 million.

• Seventeen states had insured unemployment rates above 10%, Nevada above 20% for 15th consecutive week.

State initial jobless claims for unemployment insurance unexpectedly increased to 1.106 million in the week ending August 15 from an upwardly-revised 971,000 million (was 963,000). The previous week was the first reading below one million since March 14. The Action Economics Forecast Survey anticipated 945,000 new state 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 changing conditions, declined to 1.176 million from 1.255 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, grew to 542,797 in the week ending August 15 from a slightly upwardly-revised 489,639 (was 488,622). Numbers for this and other federal programs are not seasonally adjusted.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance decreased to 14.844 million in the week ending August 8, from a downwardly-revised 15.480 million (was 15.486 million). Continuing PUA claims, which are lagged an additional week, increased to 11.225 million from an unrevised 10.723 million. Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation claims continued its upward climb rising to 1.289 million in the week ending August 1. 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 declined to 10.2% in the week ending August 8 from an unrevised 10.6%. This data does not include the federal pandemic assistance programs. If you include the latest data available, which is lagged one additional week, the number of continuing claims was unchanged at 27.4 million or 17.1% of the labor force.

The state insured rates of unemployment -- which do not include federal programs -- continued to show wide variation with Idaho at just 2.7% and Nevada at 24.2%. Nevada has been above 20% for 15 consecutive weeks. Seventeen states had rates over 10%, with only Nevada above 20%. The largest states ranged between 6.5% for Florida and 17.0% for California. 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) 08/15/20 08/08/20 08/01/20 Y/Y % 2019 2018 2017
Initial Claims 1,106 971 1,191 414 218 221 244
  4-week Average 1,176 1,255 1,339 -- -- -- --
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 543 490 656 -- -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 14,844 15,480 780 1,701 1,756 1,961
  4-week Average -- 15,841 16,168 -- -- -- --
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 11,225 -- -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 10.2 10.6

(Aug 2019)

1.2 1.2 1.4
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