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Economy in Brief

U.S. Unemployment Insurance Claims Set Post-Pandemic Low Again
by Carol Stone, CBE  November 4, 2021

• Initial claims again lowest since March 14, 2020.

• Continuing claims continue to decline.

• Insured unemployment rate nearing pre-pandemic level.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance decreased 14,000 in the week ended October 30 to 269,000 (-64.8% y/y) from 283,000 the previous week; that was revised slightly from 281,000 reported before. The Action Economics Forecast Survey had expected 280,000 initial claims for the latest week. The 4-week moving average fell to 284,750 from 299,750. Both the most recent week’s claims and the four-week average again set a new post-pandemic low since March 14, 2020 when initial claims were 256,000 and the four-week average was 225,500.

Initial claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program in the week ended October 30 were 2,195 (-99.4% y/y) versus 2,821 in the prior week. The latest number was the smallest amount 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 full 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 marked 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 weeks claims for regular state unemployment insurance fell again during the week of October 23 to 2.105 million from 2.239 million the previous week; that earlier figure was revised from 2.243 million. The insured unemployment rate edged down to 1.6% in the latest week from 1.7% in the previous week. Both were the lowest reading since March 14, 2020; the rate before then was fairly constant at 1.2%.

Continued weeks claims in the Pandemic Assistance Program (PUA) program actually rose in the latest reported week, October 16, amounting to 277,109 from 270,013 in the October 9 week. This is, though, much lower than the October 2 week’s 517,949. Continued weeks claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) declined to 233,684 in the week ended October 16 from 244,379 in the week of October 9 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 16 the total number of all state, federal, PUA and PEUC continued claims fell to 2.673 million from 2.831 million and from 11.250 million in the week ended September 4. These total claims averaged 3.108 million over the four weeks ended October 16. These figures are not seasonally adjusted.

The state insured rates of unemployment in regular programs continues to vary widely. In the week ending October 16, the highest insured unemployment rates were in California (2.92%), Illinois and Hawaii (2.80%), New Jersey (2.52%), Alaska (2.39%), and Nevada (2.33%). The lowest rates were in South Dakota (0.18%), Alabama (0.31%), North Dakota (0.34%), Nebraska (0.36%), and Idaho (0.38%). Insured unemployment rates in other large states included New York (1.91%), Pennsylvania (2.00%), Texas (1.10%), Ohio (0.81%), and Florida (0.66%). 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) 10/30/21 10/23/21 10/16/21 Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Initial Claims 269 283 291 -64.8 1,352 218 220
Initial Claims (NSA) 240 247 257 -67.4 1,353 218 221
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 2 3 3 -99.4 -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 2,105 2,239 -70.3 10,380 1,699 1,754
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 1,889 1,987 -72.5 10,370 1,704 1,763
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 277 -97.1 -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 1.6 1.7

5.2
(Oct 2020)

7.1 1.2 1.2
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