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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Claims Fall to Pandemic-Era Low
by Carol Stone, CBE  August 19, 2021

• Initial claims again decline more than expected.

• Pandemic unemployment claims rise modestly for a third week.

• Continuing weeks claimed.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance were 348,000 in the week ended August 14, down from 377,000 in the prior week (revised from 375,000). The four-week moving average decreased to 377,750 from 396,750 in the previous week. The Action Economics Forecast Survey consensus for the latest week was 365,000.

Initial claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program edged higher, but by just 5,532 to 109,379 in the August 14 week from 103,847 the week before; the earlier number was revised down slightly from 104,572. This was the third successive rise, but each has been modest. 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.

Continued weeks claimed for regular state unemployment insurance in the week ended August 7 fell 79,000 to 2.820 million from an upwardly revised 2.899 million in the prior week, originally reported at 2.866 million. In the August 7 week, the associated rate of insured unemployment remained at its pandemic low of 2.1%

Continued weeks claimed in the PUA program increased by 56,881 in the week ended July 31 to 4.878 million,. Continued weeks claimed for PEUC benefits fell 66,081 to 3.786 million, yet another new low 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 31, the total number of all state, federal, PUA and PEUC continued claims was 11.744 million, down 311,787 from the week before. This is another low since March 28, 2020, that is, just as the pandemic was emerging, 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 31, the highest insured unemployment rates were in California (3.78%), Illinois (3.57%), New York (3.17%), Rhode Island (3.15%) and Connecticut (3.06%). The lowest rates were in South Dakota (0.39%), Utah (0.58%), Idaho (0.61%), Nebraska (0.67%) and North Dakota (0.68%). Insured unemployment rates in other large states included New Jersey (2.96%), Pennsylvania (2.08%), Texas (1.61%), Ohio (1.20%) and Florida (0.72%). 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) 08/14/21 08/07/21 07/31/21 Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Initial Claims 348 377 387 -62.2 1,352 218 220
Initial Claims (NSA) 309 323 326 -64.9 1,353 218 221
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 109 104 94 -78.8 -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 2,820 2,899 -80.2 10,380 1,699 1,754
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 2,764 2,850 -80.5 10,370 1,704 1,763
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 4,878 -58.1 -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 2.1 2.1

(Aug 2020)

7.1 1.2 1.2
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