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Economy in Brief

U.S. Unemployment Claims Edged Down
by Sandy Batten  November 10, 2021

• Initial claims again lowest since March 14, 2020.

• Claims just 11,000 above last pre-pandemic reading.

• Continuing claims inched up in latest week.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance slipped 4,000 in the week ended November 6 to 267,000 from an upwardly revised 271,000 in the previous week (originally 269,000). The Action Economics Forecast Survey had expected 266,000 initial claims for the latest week. The 4-week moving average fell to 278,000 from 285,250. 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 November 6 fell to 1,862 from 2,200 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. This program expired on September 4, explaining the marked decline in new claims over the past several weeks. 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. Given the brief history of this program, these and other COVID-related series are not seasonally adjusted.

Continued claims for regular state unemployment insurance rose to 2.160 million in the Week of October 30 from 2.101 million in the previous week. This was the first weekly increase in this figure in the past seven weeks. The insured unemployment rate was unchanged at 1.6% in the latest week, the lowest reading since March 14, 2020. The rate just before the pandemic had been fairly constant at 1.2%.

Continued weeks claims in the Pandemic Assistance Program (PUA) program declined to 253,593 in the week ended October 23 from 277,109 in the previous week and a major step down from 4.896 million in the last week of the program. Continued weeks claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) surprisingly rose to 256,496 in the week ended October 23 from 233,684 in the prior week, but also a major step down from 3.645 million in the last week of the program (which ended on September 4). This program covered people who had exhausted their state unemployment insurance benefits

In the week ended October 23 the total number of all state, federal, PUA and PEUC continued claims fell to 2.566 million, the lowest reading since March 14, 2020 when continued claims totaled 2.103 million, from 2.673 million in the previous week. These figures are not seasonally adjusted.

The state insured rates of unemployment in regular programs continue to vary widely. In the week ending October 23, the highest insured unemployment rates were in California (2.80%), Jersey (2.50%), Alaska and Hawaii (2.40%). The lowest rates were in South Dakota (0.20%), Alabama (0.30%), North Dakota (0.30%) and five states at 0.40%. Insured unemployment rates in other large states included New York (1.80%), Pennsylvania (1.80%), Texas (1.10%), Ohio (0.80%), and Florida (0.70%). 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 and is in the AS1REPNA database.

Unemployment Insurance (SA, 000s) 11/06/21 10/30/21 10/23/21 Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Initial Claims 267 271 283 -63.3 1,352 218 220
Initial Claims (NSA) 254 242 247 -64.7 1,353 218 221
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 2 2 3 -99.4 -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 2,160 2,101 -67.9 10,380 1,699 1,754
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 1,904 1,885 -70.5 10,370 1,704 1,763
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 254 -97.4 -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 1.6 1.6

(Nov 2020)

7.1 1.2 1.2
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