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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance Rise Again
by Tom Moeller  September 30, 2021

• Initial claims unexpectedly increase to highest level since early-August.

• Continuing claims edge lower to new pandemic low.

• Insured unemployment rate slips.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance rose to 362,000 (-54.9% y/y) during the week ended September 25 from an unrevised 351,000 in the prior week. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected 335,000 initial claims in the latest week. The four-week moving average of initial claims edged higher to 340,000.

Initial claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program in the week ended September 25 were 16,752, up from 14,793 in the previous week. The latest number remained near the lowest since the program began on April 4, 2020 at the start of the pandemic. By comparison, these claims averaged 107,756 per week during August. 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, explaining the smaller 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 fell during the week of September 18 to 2.802 million (-75.4% y/y) from 2.820 million in the prior week, revised from 2.845 million. The insured rate of unemployment slipped to 2.0% from 2.1%.

Continued weekly claims in the PUA program dove to 1.059 million in the September 11 week (-91.4% y/y) from 4.896 million in the prior week. Continued weekly claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) fell sharply to 991,813 in the week of September 11, down from 3.645 million in the prior week. This program covers people who have exhausted their state unemployment insurance benefits.

In the week ended September 11, the total number of all state, federal, PUA and PEUC continued claims more than halved w/w to 5.028 million. These total claims averaged 10.078 million over the four weeks ended September 11. These figures are not seasonally adjusted.

The state insured rates of unemployment in regular programs continues to vary widely. In the week ending September 11, the highest insured unemployment rates were in California (3.37%), New Jersey (3.28%), Illinois (2.96%), New York (2.88%) and Rhode Island (2.74%). The lowest rates were in South Dakota (0.30%), Idaho (0.48%), Nebraska (0.48%), North Dakota (0.50%) and Alabama (0.52%). Insured unemployment rates in other large states included Pennsylvania (2.04%), Texas (1.34%), Ohio (1.29%) and Florida (0.69%). 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) 09/25/21 09/18/21 09/11/21 Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Initial Claims 362 351 335 -54.9 1,352 218 220
Initial Claims (NSA) 298 307 266 -59.3 1,353 218 221
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 17 15 23 -96.3 -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 2,802 2,820 -75.4 10,380 1,699 1,754
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 2.461 2,510 -77.7 10,370 1,704 1,763
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 1,059 -91.4 -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 2.0 2.1

7.8
(Sep 2020)

7.1 1.2 1.2
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