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Economy in Brief

U.S. Unemployment Insurance Claims Continue to Decline
by Tom Moeller  September 9, 2021

• Initial & continuing claims drop to pandemic low.

• Initial PUA jobless claims fall.

• Total claimants for jobless insurance move lower.

The labor market continues to heal. Initial claims for unemployment insurance fell to 310,000 (-64.8% y/y) during the week ended September 4 from 345,000 in the prior week, revised from 340,000. The latest level is the lowest since the week of March 14, 2020. The four-week moving average decreased to 339,500, also the lowest since the pandemic's onset and down 61.7% y/y. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected 339,000 initial filings for jobless insurance in the latest week.

Initial claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program in the week ended September 4 declined 6,323 to 96,198, the lowest level in five weeks. 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 fell to 2.783 million (-79.4% y/y) in the week ended August 28 from 2.805 million in the prior week, revised from 2.748 million. This was also the lowest level of continuing claims since the beginning of the pandemic. The associated rate of insured unemployment held steady at 2.0%, the pandemic low.

Continued weeks claimed in the PUA program, lagged an additional week, were 5.091 million in the August 22 week, down by two-thirds y/y. Continued weeks claimed for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) increased 7,646 to 3.808 million. This program covers people who have exhausted their state unemployment insurance benefits.

In the week ended August 21, the total number of all state, federal, PUA and PEUC continued claims was 11.930 million, down 255,757 from the prior week. These claims averaged 11.987 million over four weeks ended August 21. These figures are not seasonally adjusted.

The state insured rates of unemployment in regular programs continues to vary widely. In the week ending August 21, the highest insured unemployment rates were in New Jersey (3.56%), California (3.39%), Illinois (3.26%), New York (3.04%) and Rhode Island (3.03%). The lowest rates were in South Dakota (0.35%), Nebraska (0.51%), Idaho (0.53%), Utah (0.53%) and Alabama (0.63%). Insured unemployment rates in other large states included Pennsylvania (2.16), Texas (1.46%), Ohio (1.08%) and Florida (0.85%). 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) 09/04/21 08/28/21 08/21/21 Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Initial Claims 310 345 354 -64.8 1,352 218 220
Initial Claims (NSA) 284 292 299 -66.9 1,353 218 221
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 96 103 116 -88.9 -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 2,783 2,805 -79.4 10,380 1,699 1,754
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 2,600 2,675 -80.5 10,370 1,704 1,763
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 5,091 -66.7 -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 2.0 2.0

(Aug 2020)

7.1 1.2 1.2
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