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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Unexpectedly Jumped
by Sandy Batten  July 22, 2021

• Claims rose to 419,000 with a decline expected, highest reading since mid-May.

• But continuing claims fell markedly across all programs.

• Insured jobless rate holds at post-pandemic low.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance unexpectedly rose to 419,000 in the week ended July 17 from an upwardly revised 368,000 (originally 360,000) in the previous week. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected 350,000 initial claims. The four-week moving average edged up to 385,250 from 384,500. Initial claims are typically volatile in the summer owing to plant shutdowns and school closings.

Initial claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program rose to 110,257 in the week ended July 17 from a slightly downwardly revised 96,287 in the previous week. The PUA program provides benefits to individuals who are not eligible for regular state unemployment insurance benefits, such as the self-employed. Given the brief history of this program, these and other COVID-related series are not seasonally adjusted.

Continuing claims for regular state unemployment insurance in the week ended July 10 fell to 3.236 million, the lowest since the week ended March 21, 2020, from 3.265 million in the prior week. The insured rate of unemployment held at 2.4%, a post-pandemic low. The rate reached a high of 15.9% in the week of May 9, 2020.

Continued claims for PUA fell to 5.134 million in the week ended July 3, the lowest since the week ended April 25, 2020, from 5.687 million in the prior week. Continued PEUC claims again fell sharply to 4.135 million in the week ended July 3 from 4.710 million in the previous week. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program covers people who have exhausted their state unemployment insurance benefits.

In the week ended July 3, the total number of all state, federal, PUA and PEUC continuing claims declined to 12.574 million, the lowest level since the last week of March 2020 and a decrease of 1.263 million from the previous week. The level is down from a high of 33.228 million in the third week of June 2020. These figures are not seasonally adjusted.

The state insured rates of unemployment in regular programs continued to vary widely. In the week ending July 3, the highest insured unemployment rates were in Nevada (4.15%), Rhode Island (3.94%), California (3.83%), Illinois (3.70%) and New Jersey (3.66%). The lowest rates were in South Dakota (0.39%), Kansas (0.69%), Idaho (0.75%), Utah (0.75%) and Nebraska (0.80%). Insured unemployment rates in other large states included New York (3.56%), Texas (1.31%) and Florida (1.21%). 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) 07/17/21 07/10/21 07/03/21 Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Initial Claims 419 368 386 -70.0 1,352 218 220
Initial Claims (NSA) 406 392 383 -70.4 1,353 218 221
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 110 96 101 -88.3 -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 3,236 3,265 -80.3 10,380 1,699 1,754
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 3,250 3,144 -80.2 10,370 1,704 1,763
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 5,134 -63.6 -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 2.4 2.4

11.2
(July 2020)

7.1 1.2 1.2
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