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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Claims Decline
by Sandy Batten  August 12, 2021

• Initial claims declined more than expected.

• Insured jobless rate decreased to 2.1%, a new pandemic-period low.

• Continued claims fell in each regular program.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance were 375,000 in the week ended August 7, down from 387,000 in the prior week (revised up 2,000). The four-week moving average rose to 396,250 from 394,500 in the previous week. Claims have been in a relatively tight range over the past ten weeks and have averaged 392,000. The Action Economics Forecast Survey consensus for the latest week was 380,000.

Initial claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program rose to 104,572 in the week ended August 7 from 94,427 in the previous week (revised down slightly from 94,476). 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 31 fell 114,000 to 2.866 million from an upwardly revised 2.980 million (originally 2.930 million) in the prior week. In the July 31 week, the associated rate of insured unemployment decreased to a pandemic low of 2.1% from 2.2% in the previous week (revised up from 2.1%).

Continued claims for PUA declined 336,195 in the week ended July 24 to 4.821 million, the lowest level since April 2020. Continued PEUC claims fell 393,638 to 3.853 million, the lowest level since the week ended January 16, 2021. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program covers people who have exhausted their state unemployment insurance benefits.

In the week ended July 24, the total number of all state, federal, PUA and PEUC continued claims was 12.055 million, down 919,593 from the week before. This is the lowest level since March 2020 and down sharply from the pandemic peak of 33.228 million reached in the week ended June 20, 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 24, the highest insured unemployment rates were in Illinois (3.82%), New Jersey (3.65%), California (3.50%), New York (3.25%) and Rhode Island (3.19%). The lowest rates were in Utah (0.60%), Kansas (0.61%), Idaho (0.65%), North Dakota (0.72%) and Nebraska (0.73%). Insured unemployment rates in other large states included Pennsylvania (2.06%), Texas (1.78%), Ohio (1.23%) and Florida (0.95%). 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) 08/07/21 07/31/21 07/24/21 Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Initial Claims 375 387 399 -57.5 1,352 218 220
Initial Claims (NSA) 321 326 344 -61.4 1,353 218 221
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 105 94 93 -78.3 -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 2,866 2,980 -81.3 10,380 1,699 1,754
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 2,817 2,930 -81.5 10,370 1,704 1,763
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 4,821 -57.1 -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 2.1 2.2

(Aug 2020)

7.1 1.2 1.2
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