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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Decrease
by Carol Stone, CBE  December 30, 2021

• Initial claims 4-week average lowest since 1969.

• Continued claims in regular programs down almost 66% from a year ago.

• Insured jobless rate 1.3%, lowest since 1.2% in March 2020.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance fell 8,000 in the week ended December 25 to a seasonally adjusted 198,000 (-74.0% y/y); the prior week was marginally revised from 205,000 to 206,000 reported initially. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected 203,000 claims for the latest week. The 4-week moving average was 199,259, down from 206,500; the latest count was not just a new post-pandemic low, but is the lowest since October 25, 1969, when it was also 199,250.

Initial claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program in the December 25 week were 897, down from 1,554 the week before and -99.7% y/y. 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.

In the December 18 week, continued weeks claimed for regular state unemployment insurance were 1.716 million (-67.7% y/y) down from 1.856 million the week before; that earlier week was revised from 1.859 million. The insured unemployment rate decreased to 1.3% in the December 18 week from 1.4% the week before and was the lowest since 1.2% during the week of March 14, 2020.

In the week ended December 11, continued weeks claimed in the Pandemic Assistance Program (PUA) rose slightly to 137,421 from 133,763 the week before but down 98.5% from a year ago. 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) also increased, rising to 117,721 in the December 11 week from 116,434 the prior week and well 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 11 the total number of all state, federal, PUA and PEUC continued claims was 2.177 million, up from 2.138 million the week before. These figures are not seasonally adjusted.

The state insured rates of unemployment in regular programs vary widely. In the week ending December 11, the highest insured unemployment rates were in Alaska (3.13%), California (2.67%), New Jersey (2.44%), Illinois (2.29%) and Minnesota (2.26%). The lowest rates were in Alabama (0.32), South Dakota (0.39%), Nebraska (0.40%), Kansas (0.42%) and New Hampshire (0.45%) Other state insured rates of unemployment in regular programs included Pennsylvania (1.53%), New York (1.75%), Texas (0.99%), and Florida (0.56%). 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) 12/25/21 12/18/21 12/11/21 Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Initial Claims 198.0 206.0 205.0 -74.0 1,352.1 218.0 220.4
Initial Claims (NSA) 256.1 255.0 265.7 -68.9 1,352.7 217.6 220.9
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 0.897 1.554 1.852 -99.7 -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 1,716.0 1,856.0 -67.7 10,379.7 1,699.0 1,754.2
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 1,637.0 1,828.0 -68.7 10,369.7 1,703.6 1,763.2
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 137.4 -98.5 -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 1.3 1.4

(Dec 2020)

7.1 1.2 1.2
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