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Economy in Brief

U.S. Unemployment Insurance Claims Rise Slightly Again but Still Remain Near Pandemic Low
by Carol Stone, CBE  September 23, 2021

• Initial claims increase 16,000.

• Continued weeks claimed down to new pandemic low.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance were 351,000 (-59.2% y/y) for the week ended September 18, up 16,000 from the prior week's 335,000; that was revised from the 332,000 reported initially. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected 320,000 initial filings in the latest week.

Initial claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program in the week ended September 18 were 15,162, down from 23,037 the week before. The latest number was the lowest in the program's history, which started April 4, 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic; for comparison, the three months through August averaged 101,555. The PUA program provided 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 very small number of new claims in the latest couple of weeks. 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 rose in the September 11 week to 2.845 million (-77.6% y/y) from 2.714 million in the prior week, which was revised from 2.665 million. The associated rate of insured unemployment rose to 2.1% from 2.0%, which was revised from 1.9%.

Continued weekly claims in the PUA program fell to 4.896 million in the September 4 week (-59.0% y/y) from 5.487 million the week before. Continued weekly claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) were 3.645 million in the September 4 week, down from 3.806 million. This program covers people who have exhausted their state unemployment insurance benefits.

In the week ended September 4, the total number of all state, federal, PUA and PEUC continued claims was 11.250 million, down 856,440 from the prior week. These total claims averaged 11.868 million over the four weeks ended September 4. These figures are not seasonally adjusted.

The state insured rates of unemployment in regular programs continues to vary widely. In the week ending September 4, the highest insured unemployment rates were in California (3.06%), New Jersey (3.04%), Nevada and New York (2.84%), Illinois (2.77%) and Rhode Island (2.67%). The lowest rates were in South Dakota (0.27%), Idaho (0.45%), Nebraska (0.46%), North Dakota and Utah (0.47%) and Alabama (0.57%). Insured unemployment rates in other large states included Pennsylvania (1.87), Texas (1.35%), Ohio (1.03%) and Florida (0.59%). 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) 09/18/21 09/11/21 09/04/21 Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Initial Claims 351 335 312 -59.2 1,352 218 220
Initial Claims (NSA) 306 266 286 -62.5 1,353 218 221
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 15 23 95 -97.6 -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 2,845 2,714 -77.6 10,380 1,699 1,754
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 2,535 2,378 -79.5 10,370 1,704 1,763
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 4,896 -59.0 -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 2.1 2.0

(Sep 2020)

7.1 1.2 1.2
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