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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Claims Post a Rise in the Week Ending March 27
by Kathleen Stephansen  April 1, 2021

• PUA claims continue to decline.

• Insured jobless rate is unchanged in the week ending March 20.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance were 719,000, an increase of 61,000 from the previous week, which was revised down by 26,000 from 684,000 to 658,000. The Action Economics Forecast Survey had expected 690,000 initial claims for the latest week. The 4-week moving average was 719,000, a decrease of 10,500 from the previous unrevised week and the lowest since March 14, 2020 when it was 225,000.

Initial claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program were 237,025 for the week ending March 27, down from 241,137 the week prior. 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 fell by 46,000 in the week ending March 20, while the seasonally adjusted state insured rate of unemployment was 2.7% for that week, unchanged from the prior week's unrevised rate. Continuing PUA claims for the week of March fell 495,204 to 7.350 million in the week ending March 13.

The number of Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) claims fell by 705,137 in the week ending March 13, to 5.515 million. That program covers people who were unemployed before COVID but exhausted their state benefits. An extension of the PEUC benefits was included in the American Rescue Plan bill passed by the Congress earlier this month, and they will now be available until August 29.

The total number of all state, federal and PUA and PEUC continuing claims fell by 1.518 million in the week of March 13, to reach 18.213 million. This grand total is not seasonally adjusted.

The state insured rates of unemployment continued to show wide variation. In the week ending March 13, the highest insured unemployment rates were in Pennsylvania (5.5%), Nevada (5.4%), Alaska (5.0%), Puerto Rico (4.9%), Connecticut (4.7%), New York (4.4%), and California (4.0%). The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending March 20 were in Massachusetts (+11,386), Texas (+7,599), and Connecticut (+4,170), while the largest decreases were in Illinois (-55,580), Ohio (-45,808), and California (-13,331).

The Department of Labor notes that "This week's release reflects the annual revision to the weekly unemployment claims seasonal adjustment factors. The seasonal adjustment factors used for the UI Weekly Claims data from 2016 forward, along with the resulting seasonally adjusted values for initial claims and continuing claims, have been revised."

Haver Analytics will stop seasonally adjusting US claims data as we expect the revised Labor Department data to closely align with our adjusted series. We will continue to adjust state 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) 03/27/21 03/20/21 03/13/21 Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Initial Claims 719 658 765 -88 1,352 218 220
Initial Claims (NSA) 714 651 757 -88 1,353 218 221
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 237 241 284 -- -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 3,794 3,840 23 10,380 1,699 1,754
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 4,143 4,234 21 10,370 1,704 1,763
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 7,350 -- -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 2.7 2.7

(Mar 2020)

7.1 1.2 1.2
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