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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Claims Hit New Pandemic Low
by Carol Stone, CBE  September 2, 2021

• Initial claims down 14,000.

• Pandemic unemployment claims also fell 14 thousand.

• Continuing claims also reach pandemic-period low.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance were 340,000 in the week ended August 28, down 14,000 from the prior week and the lowest number since March 14, 2020, just as the forces of the pandemic were mounting. The August 21 week's initial claims were 354,000, revised up just 1,000 from last week's report. The four-week moving average decreased to 355,000, also the lowest since before the pandemic and down from 366,750 the previous week. The Action Economics Forecast Survey consensus for the latest week was 348,000.

Initial claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program in the August 28 week also fell, declining 14,020 to 102,405 and breaking a string of four consecutive increases. The prior week's 116,425 was revised from 117,709. 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 21 fell 160,000 to 2.748 million. This was also the smallest amount since March 14, 2020. The associated rate of insured unemployment decreased to 2.0% in the August 21 week, a new pandemic-period low.

Continued weeks claimed in the PUA program, lagged an additional week in the Labor Department's data, were 5,413,238 in the August 14 week, up 408,485 from the week before. Continued weeks claimed for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) increased 6,044 to 3.800 million. This program covers people who have exhausted their state unemployment insurance benefits.

In the week ended August 14, the total number of all state, federal, PUA and PEUC continued weeks claimed was 12.186 million, up 178,526 from the week before. These claims over four weeks ended August 14 have moved little and averaged 12.019 million. These figures are not seasonally adjusted.

The state insured rates of unemployment in regular programs continues to vary widely. In the week ending August 14, the highest insured unemployment rates were in California (3.95%), New Jersey (3.55%), Illinois (3.41%), Rhode Island (3.08%) and New York (3.05%). The lowest rates were in South Dakota (0.39%), Alabama and Utah (0.55%), Nebraska (0.57%) and Idaho (0.58%). Insured unemployment rates in other large states included Pennsylvania (2.19), Texas (1.51%), Ohio (1.11%) and Florida (0.94%). 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) 08/28/21 08/21/21 08/14/21 Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Initial Claims 340 354 349 -61.1 1,352 218 220
Initial Claims (NSA) 288 299 309 -65.2 1,353 218 221
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 102 116 108 -86.4 -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 2,748 2,908 -79.3 10,380 1,699 1,754
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 2,617 2,810 -80.0 10,370 1,704 1,763
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 5,413 -61.2 -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 2.0 2.1

(Aug 2020)

7.1 1.2 1.2
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