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Economy in Brief

U.S. Jobless Claims Fall in October 17 Week; California Numbers Now Updated
by Carol Stone, CBE  October 22, 2020

• State initial claims fall 55,000 seasonally adjusted in October 17 week, almost reversing prior week's increase.

• Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance initial claims rise 8,212, first increase in 6 weeks.

• Regular state and PUA continuing claims declined again while PEUC continued upward march.

• California completed its processing updates, with actual national totals showing sizable downward revisions.

Seasonally adjusted state initial claims for unemployment insurance fell 55,000 in the week ending October 17 to 787,000 from 842,000 in the previous week. Importantly, these amounts include downward revisions as California completed its processing update. The Action Economics Forecast Survey estimated 860,000, obviously based on the pre-revision levels. Additionally, a change in the calculation of seasonal adjustment factors from multiplicative to additive created a break in the series in late August. Though the current week-to-week comparison is valid, the comparison to August 22 is not. For more details, please see the September 3 commentary on jobless claims.

The impact of the California revisions was sizable: the national totals for initial claims in the October 3 week were reduced by 78,000 and in the October 10 week, 56,000.

The not seasonally adjusted data, which are comparable across all periods for initial claims, fell 73,000 to 757,000 in the week ending October 17. The October 10 week's amount was revised down from 886,000 to 830,000.

Haver Analytics has calculated a methodologically consistent seasonally adjusted data series. As these data illustrate, our calculated seasonal adjustment factors very closely match the Department of Labor seasonals.

Claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which covers individuals such as the self-employed who are not covered by regular state unemployment insurance, rose 8,212 to 345,440, interrupting a five-week downtrend.

Seasonally adjusted state continuing claims for unemployment insurance -- which are also impacted by the California revisions -- fell to 8.373 million in the week ending October 10, from 9.397 million in the October 3 week. Haver Analytics methodologically consistent seasonally adjusted continuing claims showed the same readings for October 10, and a miniscule 1,000 difference the week before those weeks and finds the October 3 number is the lowest level of continuing claims since March 28. The California revisions resulted in a 627,000 reduction in the total number of people receiving regular unemployment insurance in the October 3 week.

Not seasonally adjusted continuing claims dropped to 7.992 million from 9.011 million, also the lowest since late March.

Continuing PUA claims, which are lagged an additional week and not seasonally adjusted, declined to 10.232 million from 10.659 million. Meanwhile, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation claims showed a sizable increase to 3.296 million in the October 3 week from 2.786 million the week before. This program covers people who were unemployed before COVID but had 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 5.7% in the week ending October 10 from 6.4% the week before. The not seasonally adjusted rate dropped to 5.5% from 6.1%, the lowest since the March 21 week. These data do 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 24.197 million or 15.1% of the labor force. This is the lowest since April.

The insured rates of unemployment for individual states -- which do not include the special federal programs -- continued to show wide variation. The lowest rates in the October 3rd week were in Idaho (1.13%), South Dakota (1.30%), Alabama (1.40%), Utah (1.43%) and Nebraska (1.70%). The highest rates were in Louisiana (8.76%), Georgia (9.27%), Nevada (11.27%), California (11.51%) and Hawaii (14.90%. The rate in New York was 7.66%, in Illinois 7.55%, and Texas 5.78%. These 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) 10/17/20 10/10/20 10/03/20 Y/Y % 2019 2018 2017
Initial Claims 787 842 767 269 218 221 244
Initial Claims (NSA) 757 830 731 305 218 221 243
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 345 337 379 -- -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 8,373 9,397 395 1,701 1,756 1,961
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 7,992 9,011 476 1,704 1,763 1,964
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 10,233 -- -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 5.7 6.4

(Oct 2019)

1.2 1.2 1.4
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