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Economy in Brief

U.S. Unemployment Insurance Claims Continue to Fall
by Sandy Batten  October 28, 2021

• Initial claims are approaching pre-pandemic levels; lowest since March 14, 2020.

• Continuing claims remain on downtrend.

• Insured unemployment rate falls further below 2%.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance fell to 281,000 (-63.4% y/y) in the week ending October 23 from 291,000 the previous week, revised up slightly from 290,000. The Action Economics Forecast Survey had expected 295,000 initial claims for the latest week. The 4-week moving average fell to 299,250 from 320,000. Both the most-recent week claims and the four-week average were the lowest since March 14, 2020 when initial claims were 256,000 and the four-week average was 225,500. Clearly, initial claims are approaching pre-pandemic levels.

Initial claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program in the week ended October 23 were 2,532 (-99.3% y/y) versus 2,565 in the prior week. The latest number was 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 last month of the program. 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 4, explaining the decline in new claims over the past few 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 October 16 to 2.243 million from a slightly downwardly revised 2.480 million in the previous week. The insured unemployment rate edged down to 1.7% from 1.8% in the previous week. Both were the lowest reading since March 14, 2020. Continued weekly claims in the Pandemic Assistance Program (PUA) program dropped to 270,013 in the week of October 9 from 517,949 in the previous week, as the program continued to wind down. Continued weekly claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) declined to 244,379 in the week of October 9 from 331,567 in the previous week and from 3.645 million in the week ended September 4 (the last week of the program). This program covered people who had exhausted their state unemployment insurance benefits.

In the week ended October 9, the total number of all state, federal, PUA and PEUC continued claims fell to 2.831 million from 3.279 million and from 11.250 million in the week ended September 4. These total claims averaged 3.483 million over the four weeks ended October 9. These figures are not seasonally adjusted.

The state insured rates of unemployment in regular programs continues to vary widely. In the week ending October 9, the highest insured unemployment rates were in California (3.19%), Illinois (2.72%), Georgia (2.68%), Hawaii (2.58%), New Jersey (2.48%) and Nevada (2.45%). The lowest rates were in South Dakota (0.16%), Alabama (0.32%), North Dakota (0.34%), Nebraska (0.38%), Idaho (0.39%) and Utah (0.40%). Insured unemployment rates in other large states included New York (1.99%), Pennsylvania (1.94%), Texas (1.09%), Ohio (0.88%), 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) 10/23/21 10/16/21 10/09/21 Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Initial Claims 281 291 296 -63.4 1,352 218 220
Initial Claims (NSA) 245 257 281 -66.5 1,353 218 221
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 3 3 22 -99.3 -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 2,243 2,480 -70.9 10,380 1,699 1,754
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 1,991 2,168 -73.3 10,370 1,704 1,763
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 270 -97.5 -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 1.7 1.8

(Oct 2020)

7.1 1.2 1.2
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