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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Drop Sharply
by Tom Moeller  October 7, 2021

• Initial claims unexpectedly fell to lowest level since early-September.

• Continuing claims decline to post-pandemic low.

• Insured unemployment rate slips further.

The labor market continues to strengthen. Initial claims for unemployment insurance fell to 326,000 (-58.3% y/y) during the week ended October 2 from 364,000 in the prior week, revised from 362,000. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected 348,000 initial claims in the latest week. The four-week moving average of initial claims rose to 344,000.

Initial claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program in the week ended October 2 were 23,453 (-93.8% y/y) versus 17,687 in the previous week. The latest number was the highest in four weeks, but remained near the lowest level 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 during the latest several 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 25 to 2.714 million (-74.1% y/y) from 2.811 million in the prior week, revised from 2.802 million. The insured rate of unemployment slipped to 2.0% from 2.1%.

Continued weekly claims in the Pandemic Assistance Program (PUA) program dove to 647,690 from 1.059 million in the September 18 week (-94.0% y/y) as the program wound down. Continued weekly claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) fell sharply to 630,814 in the week of September 18, down from 991,813 in the prior week and 3.645 million in the week before that. This program covered people who had exhausted their state unemployment insurance benefits.

In the week ended September 18, the total number of all state, federal, PUA and PEUC continued claims fell sharply w/w to 4.173 million from 11.250 million two weeks earlier. These total claims averaged 8.139 million over the four weeks ended September 18. These figures are not seasonally adjusted.

The state insured rates of unemployment in regular programs continues to vary widely. In the week ending September 18, the highest insured unemployment rates were in Illinois (4.17%), California (3.06%), New Jersey (2.88%), New York (2.53%) and Louisiana (2.46%). The lowest rates were in South Dakota (0.21%), Alabama (0.37%), Idaho (0.40%), North Dakota (0.40%) and Nebraska (0.45%). Insured unemployment rates in other large states included Pennsylvania (2.27%), Ohio (1.53%), Texas (1.27%) and Florida (0.71%). 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) 10/02/21 09/25/21 09/18/21 Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Initial Claims 326 364 351 -58.3 1,352 218 220
Initial Claims (NSA) 259 300 307 -64.2 1,353 218 221
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 23 18 15 -93.8 -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 2,714 2,811 -74.1 10,380 1,699 1,754
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 2,391 2,470 -76.5 10,370 1,704 1,763
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 648 -94.0 -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 2.0 2.1

(Sep 2020)

7.1 1.2 1.2
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