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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Edge Higher But Other Unemployment Insurance Measures Continue Downtrend
by Carol Stone, CBE  September 24, 2020

• Seasonally adjusted initial claims in state programs edged up 4,000 in September 19 week to 870,000; not seasonally adjusted claims rose 29,000 to 825,000.

• PUA program initial claims fell 45,074 to lowest in four weeks.

• Insured unemployment rate in Sept 12 week was 8.6%, lowest since 8.2% in early April.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance in standard state programs rose slightly in the week ended September 19 to 870,000 seasonally adjusted (+305% y/y) from 866,000 the week before; that September 12 figure was revised upward by 6,000. The Action Economics Forecast Survey had expected 850,000.

As noted here in recent weeks, the Department of Labor shifted the seasonal adjustment calculation from a multiplicative factor to an additive factor in the week of August 29, which introduced a break in the series then. See the commentary here on September 3 for more information about this change. As we have mentioned here, Haver has calculated a series with additive seasonal factors throughout history; the official Labor Department series will be reconciled when standard adjustments are made in January. Not seasonally adjusted data rose in the September 19 week to 824,500 initial claims from 796,000 the week before.

The special pandemic-related initial claims series fell by 45,000 in the September 19 week to 630,000 from 675,000 the week before; the earlier week was revised from 659,000. This program reaches "gig workers" or others unemployed who are not ordinarily associated with companies or other organizations giving them access to standard unemployment insurance.

Continuing claims for standard unemployment insurance were 12.580 million in the September 12 week, down 167,000 from the prior week. This extends a downtrend that has persisted -- albeit a bit irregularly -- since early May. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program (PUA) continuing claims decreased 2.96 million in the September 5 week to 11.5 million, the lowest since August 8. Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) recipients were still increasing in the September 5 week to 1.632 million from 1.527 million the week before.

The insured unemployment rate was 8.6% in the September 12 week, a downtick from 8.7% the previous week. This includes the standard state programs only. While this is the lowest since 8.2% in the April 4 week, the pre-pandemic "normal" amount was 1.2%.

Among the states, the basic insured unemployment rates continue with extreme variation. Alabama, for instance, had a rate of 2.1% in the September 5 week, while Nevada's was 15.7%. The rate in Texas was 7.9%, Connecticut, 10.1%, and New York, 13.7%. A total of 12 states had rates above 10%.

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) 09/19/20 09/12/20 09/05/20 Y/Y % 2019 2018 2017
Initial Claims 870 866 893 305 218 221 244
Initial Claims (NSA) 825 796 866 370 218 221 243
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 630 675 868 -- -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 12,580 12,747 652 1,701 1,756 1,961
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 12,264 12,441 776 1,704 1,763 1,964
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 11,511 -- -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 8.6 8.7

(Sep 2019)

1.2 1.2 1.4
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