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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Jobless Insurance Claims Rise Modestly but Prior Week Revised Up 55,000
by Carol Stone, CBE  February 18, 2021

• Pandemic-related initial claims reach largest amount in almost five months.

• Continuing claims in regular state programs continue downtrend.

• Insured jobless rate unchanged.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance rose 13,000 in the week ended February 13 to 861,000. The previous week, initially reported at 793,000, was revised to 848,000. Thus, the decline then of 19,000 evolved into an increase of 36,000. The four-week moving average of initial claims eased to 833,250, a decrease of 3,500 and a five-week low. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected 775,000 for the latest week.

Initial claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program climbed to 516,299, up 174,427 on the week and the largest number since September 19. The PUA program covers individuals such as the self-employed who are not included in regular state unemployment insurance. Given the brief history of this program, which started April 4, 2020, these and other COVID-related series are not seasonally adjusted.

Continuing claims for regular state unemployment insurance decreased to 4.494 million in the week ended February 6 from 4.558 million in the prior week, which was revised from 4.545 million; the not seasonally adjusted series in the February 6 week fell to 5.003 million from 5.157 million. Continuing PUA claims for the week of January 30 decreased to 7.685 million from 7.943 million in the prior week. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) claims declined to 4.061 million in the January 30 week from 4.779 million the week before. This program covers people who were unemployed before COVID but exhausted their state benefits and are now eligible to receive benefits through March 14, 2021.

The total number of all state, federal and PUA and PEUC continuing claims fell by 1.326 million to 18.340 million in the January 30 week from 19.666 million the week before. This grand total is not seasonally adjusted.

The seasonally adjusted state insured rate of unemployment was 3.2% in the week ended February 6, the same as in the prior week.

The state insured rates of unemployment – which do not include the special federal programs – continued to show wide variation. In the week ended January 30, Alabama had the lowest rate at 0.93%, and Alaska was highest at 6.40%. Among the larger states, Florida had a rate of 2.20%, Texas stood at 2.77%. California was 4.56%, Illinois' rate was 5.11%, and New York’s was 5.13%. These state rates are not seasonally adjusted.

As we continue to point out, the Labor Department changed its seasonal adjustment methodology back in August from multiplicative to additive. They did not restate the earlier data, so there is a break in the series in late August. Though the current comparison to early September is valid, comparisons with figures before August 22 are not. Haver Analytics has calculated methodologically consistent seasonally adjusted claims series dating back to 1979. This series matches the Department of Labor seasonally adjusted series since their change in methodology. For more details, please see the September 3 commentary on jobless claims.

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) 02/13/21 02/06/21 01/30/21 Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Initial Claims 861 848 812 300 1,450 218 221
Initial Claims (NSA) 862 868 850 312 1,367 218 221
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 516 342 369 -- -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 4,494 4,558 160 10,664 1,701 1,756
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 4,945 5,039 136 10,358 1,704 1,763
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 7,685 -- -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 3.2 3.2

(Feb 2020)

7.3 1.2 1.2
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