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Economy in Brief

U.S. Unemployment Insurance Claims Rise But Remain Near Pandemic Low
by Peter D'Antonio  September 16, 2021

• Initial claims partially reverse last week's decline.

• Initial PUA jobless claims plunge as program ends.

• Claims continue to trend down.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance increased to 332,000 (-61.4% y/y) during the week ended September 11, partially reversing the 33,000 decline to 312,000 in the prior week. Apart from the dip last week, the latest level is the lowest since the week of March 14, 2020. The four-week moving average continued to decline to 335,750, which was the lowest since the onset of the pandemic and down 61.5% y/y. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected a rise to 320,000 initial filings for jobless insurance in the latest week.

Initial claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program in the week ended September 11 declined by 66,182 to 28,456, the lowest level since the program's inception. The PUA program provides benefits to individuals who are not eligible for regular state unemployment insurance benefits, such as the self-employed. This program expired on September 6, likely explaining the drop-off in new claims. Given the brief history of this program, these and other COVID-related series are not seasonally adjusted.

Continued weekly claims for regular state unemployment insurance fell to 2.665 million (-79.1% y/y) in the week ended September 4 from 2.852 million in the prior week, revised from 2.783 million. This was also the lowest level of continuing claims since the beginning of the pandemic. The associated rate of insured unemployment dipped by 0.2 percentage point to 1.9%, the pandemic low.

Continued weekly claims in the PUA program, lagged an additional week, increased to 5.487 million in the August 28 week, down by 63.1% y/y. Continued weekly claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) were essentially unchanged at 3.806 million. This program covers people who have exhausted their state unemployment insurance benefits.

In the week ended August 28, the total number of all state, federal, PUA and PEUC continued claims was 12.107 million, up 178,937 from the prior week. These claims averaged 12.057 million over four weeks ended August 28. These figures are not seasonally adjusted.

The state insured rates of unemployment in regular programs continues to vary widely. In the week ending August 28, the highest insured unemployment rates were in California (3.61%), New Jersey (3.56%), Illinois (3.28%), New York (3.04%) and Rhode Island (3.01%). The lowest rates were in South Dakota (0.36%), Utah (0.54%), Nebraska (0.55%), Idaho (0.55%) and North Dakota (0.60%). Insured unemployment rates in other large states included Pennsylvania (2.21), Texas (1.49%), Ohio (1.11%) and Florida (0.83%). 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) 09/11/21 09/04/21 08/28/21 Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Initial Claims 332 312 345 -61.4 1,352 218 220
Initial Claims (NSA) 263 286 292 -66.6 1,353 218 221
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 28 95 103 -95.8 -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 2,665 2,852 -79.1 10,380 1,699 1,754
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 2,329 2,669 -81.2 10,370 1,704 1,763
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 5,487 -63.1 -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 1.9 2.1

(Sep 2020)

7.1 1.2 1.2
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