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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Jobless Claims Decline; Continuing Claims Range-bound
by Gerald D. Cohen  September 17, 2020

• Seasonally adjusted state initial claims declined to 860,000 in the week ending September 12. Not seasonally adjusted state initial jobless claims down to 790,021.

• While all measures of state initial claims are at their lowest level since March 21, Haver methodologically-consistent history seasonally adjusted claims just slightly below levels seen in August.

• Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance new filers decreased to 658,737 following four consecutive monthly increases.

• Total of state, PUA and PEUC continuing claims at 28.3 million; range-bound since May.

Seasonally adjusted state initial jobless claims for unemployment insurance declined to 860,000 in the week ending September 12 from 893,000 in the previous week. The Action Economics Forecast Survey anticipated 850,000. A change in the calculation of seasonal adjustment factors created a break in the series three weeks ago; though the current week-to-week comparison is valid. For more details please see the September 3 commentary on jobless claims.

The not seasonally adjusted data, which is comparable across all periods for initial claims rose to 790,021 in the week ending September 12 from 865,995. Haver Analytics has calculated methodologically consistent seasonally adjusted data. This shows claims edging down to 869,000 from 894,000. As this data illustrates, our calculated seasonal adjustment factors closely match the Department of Labor (DoL) seasonals. However, there are some gaps between the seasonal adjustment factors released by the DoL for the remainder of the year and our estimated factors. While all measures of state initial claims are at their lowest level since March 21, Haver methodologically-consistent history is just slightly below the 863,000 level from August 22.

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 for the first time in four weeks to 658,737 from 868,314. PUA claims are up roughly 170,000 since their near-term low in the week ending August 8. Numbers for this and other federal programs are not seasonally adjusted.

Seasonally adjusted state continuing claims for unemployment insurance fell to 12.628 million in the week ending September 5, from 13.544 million. This week-to-week comparison uses the same seasonal adjustment methodology. Not seasonally adjusted continuing claims dropped to 12.321 from 13.355 million. Haver Analytics methodologically consistent seasonally adjusted continuing claims decreased to 12.645 million from 13.545 million.

Continuing PUA claims, which are lagged an additional week and not seasonally adjusted, declined to 14.467 million from 14.656 million. Still they are up 3.5 million from the near-term low of 11.0 million in early August. Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation claims continued their upward climb to a new high of 1.527 million in the week ending August 29. 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 seasonally adjusted state insured rate of unemployment fell to 8.6% in the week ending September 5 from 9.3%. The not-seasonally-adjusted data dropped to 8.4% from 9.1%. This data does not include the federal pandemic assistance programs. If you include the latest data available, which is lagged one additional week, the total number of state, PUA and PEUC continuing claims declined to 28.3 million or 17.6% of the labor force. This total has been range-bound since May.

The state insured rates of unemployment -- which do not include federal programs -- continued to show wide variation with Idaho at just 1.8% and Hawaii at 20.3%. Eleven states had rates above 10%, with Hawaii the only state above 20%. The largest states ranged between 4.7% for Florida and 17.3% 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) 09/12/20 09/05/20 08/29/20 Y/Y % 2019 2018 2017
Initial Claims 860 893 884 308 218 221 244
Initial Claims (NSA) 790 866 837 356 218 221 243
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 659 868 751 -- -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 12,628 13,544 654 1,701 1,756 1,961
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 12,321 13,355 740 1,704 1,763 1,964
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 14,467 -- -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 8.6 9.3

(Sep 2019)

1.2 1.2 1.4
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