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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mixed Jobless Claims Data: State Improving: PUA Worsening
by Gerald D. Cohen  October 29, 2020

• State initial claims declined to their lowest level since mid-March on both a seasonally adjusted and not seasonally adjusted basis.

• Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance new filers rose for second week.

• Continuing claims show same pattern while PEUC continues upward march.

Seasonally adjusted state initial jobless claims for unemployment insurance declined to 751,000 in the week ending October 24 from 791,000 in the previous week. This is the lowest level of claims since March 14. The Action Economics Forecast Survey anticipated 800,000. A change in the calculation of seasonal adjustment factors 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 not seasonally adjusted data, which is comparable across all periods for initial claims decreased to 732,223 in the week ending October 24 from 760,577. Haver Analytics has calculated methodologically-consistent seasonally adjusted data which matches the Department of Labor seasonally adjusted data in the last two weeks. The Haver seasonally adjusted series is also at its lowest level since March 14 (the not seasonally adjusted data is only a three-week low).

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, increased for the second week in a row to 359,667; they had reached a six month low two weeks ago. Numbers for this and other federal programs are not seasonally adjusted.

Seasonally adjusted state continuing claims for unemployment insurance fell to 7.756 million in the week ending October 17, from 8.465 million. Haver Analytics methodologically-consistent seasonally adjusted continuing claims showed the same readings for those weeks and finds the October 17 number is the lowest level of continuing claims since late March. Not seasonally adjusted continuing claims dropped to 7.422 from 8.085 million, also the lowest since late March.

Continuing PUA claims, which are lagged an additional week and not seasonally adjusted, increased to 10.325 million from 10.153 million. These statistics have been range-bound since late July. Meanwhile, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation claims continued their upward climb to a new high of 3.683 million in the week ending October 10. 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 5.3% in the week ending October 17 from 5.8%. The not-seasonally-adjusted data dropped to 5.1% from 5.5%, the lowest since late March. 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 21.4 million or 13.4% of the labor force. This is the lowest since late April.

The state insured rates of unemployment -- which do not include federal programs -- continued to show wide variation with Idaho at just 1.1% and Hawaii at 12.6%. Only two other states -- Nevada and California -- had rates above 10%. The largest states ranged between 3.3% for Florida and 10.5% 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) 10/24/20 10/17/20 10/10/20 Y/Y % 2019 2018 2017
Initial Claims 751 791 842 246 218 221 244
Initial Claims (NSA) 732 761 830 268 218 221 243
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 360 345 337 -- -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 7,756 8,465 356 1,701 1,756 1,961
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 7,422 8,085 423 1,704 1,763 1,964
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 10,325 -- -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 5.3 5.8

(Oct 2019)

1.2 1.2 1.4
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