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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Unchanged
by Carol Stone, CBE  December 23, 2021

• Initial claims steady, back in pre-pandemic range.

• Continued claims in regular programs also approach pre-pandemic amounts.

• Insured jobless rate 1.4%, near pre-pandemic 1.2% level.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance were steady at 205,000 in the week ended December 18 (-74.5% y/y); the prior week was marginally revised from 206,000 reported initially. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected 200,000 claims for the latest week. The 4-week moving average rose to 206,250 in the week ended December 18 from 203,500 the week before. The recent range near 200,000 is back to the amount for about two years before the pandemic started in the spring of 2020; then claims jump dramatically to almost 6 million in just two weeks.

Initial claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program in the December 18 week fell to 1,550 (-99.6% y/y) from 1,852 in the prior week. This program expired on September 4. 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 weeks claims for regular state unemployment insurance decreased to 1.859 million (-65.8% y/y) during the week ended December 11 from 1.867 million in the prior week; that was revised from 1.845 million. The insured unemployment rate was steady at 1.4%; just before the pandemic struck in March 2020, the rate was hovering at 1.2%.

In the week ended December 4, continued weeks claimed in the Pandemic Assistance Program (PUA) program dropped from 194,189 to 133,763 (-98.6% y/y). This number of continued weeks claimed compares to 4.896 million in the last week of the program, September 4. Continued weeks claimed for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) fell to 116,134 increased to 116,434 in the December 4 week from 136,413 in the prior week and below the 3,644,555 claims during the last week of the program on September 4. This program covered people who had exhausted their state unemployment insurance benefits.

In the week ended December 4 the total number of all state, federal, PUA and PEUC continued claims was 2.138 million, down from 2.458 million the week before. These figures are not seasonally adjusted.

The state insured rates of unemployment in regular programs continue to vary. In the week ending December 4, the highest insured unemployment rates were in Alaska (3.12%), California (2.45%), New Jersey (2.41%), Minnesota (2.18%) and Hawaii (1.94%). The lowest rates were in South Dakota (0.32%), Alabama (0.33), Nebraska (0.39%), Kansas (0.42%) and New Hampshire (0.43%) Other state insured rates of unemployment in regular programs included Pennsylvania (1.62%), New York (1.76%), Texas (0.94%), and Florida (0.58%). 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) 12/18/21 12/11/21 12/04/21 Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Initial Claims 205.0 205.0 188.0 -74.5 1,352.1 218.0 220.4
Initial Claims (NSA) 254.0 265.7 283.9 -70.3 1,352.7 217.6 220.9
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 1.550 1.852 1.835 -99.6 -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 1,859.0 1,867.0 -65.8 10,379.7 1,699.0 1,754.2
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 1,831.0 1,735.0 -66.2 10,369.7 1,703.6 1,763.2
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 133.8 -98.6 -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 1.4 1.4

3.7
(Dec 2020)

7.1 1.2 1.2
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