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Economy in Brief

U.S. Unemployment Claims Decrease; Rate Hits Record Low
by Carol Stone, CBE  March 17, 2022

• Initial claims decrease somewhat more than expected.

• Continued claims rose slightly but remain well below pre-pandemic levels.

• Insured unemployment rate = 1.0%, lowest ever.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance were 214,000 in the week ended March 12 (-72.0% y/y) following 229,000 the week before. That prior week was revised from 227,000 reported before. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected 221,000 claims for the latest week. The 4-week moving average of initial claims decreased to 223,250 from 231,750 in the prior week.

In the week ended March 5, continued weeks claimed for unemployment insurance were 1.419 million, down from 1.490 million in the previous week. These figures are below those immediately before the pandemic and are the lowest since 1970. The insured unemployment rate ticked down to 1.0% in the week ended March 5 from the 1.1% where it had been the three previous weeks. The March 5 amount is the lowest rate ever for this series, which began in 1971.

In the week ended February 26, the number of continued weeks claimed in all unemployment insurance programs rose 59,516 to 1.969 million. This total includes federal employee, newly discharged veterans, extended benefits and other specialized programs. Continued claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program and for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation are no longer reported as both programs have expired; they were last reported for the week ended February 19.

The state insured rates of unemployment in regular programs vary widely. In the week ending February 26, the highest insured unemployment rates were in Rhode Island (2.70%), California (2.56%), New Jersey (2.39%), Alaska (2.37%) and New York (2.35%). The lowest rates were in Virginia (0.18%), Alabama (0.23%), North Carolina (0.34%), Mississippi (0.43%) and Florida (0.45%) Other state insured rates of unemployment in regular programs include Illinois (2.11%), Pennsylvania (1.84%), Ohio (1.13%) and Texas (0.83%). 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) 03/12/22 03/05/22 02/26/22 Y/Y % 2021 2020 2019
Initial Claims 214.0 229.0 216.0 -72.0 473.3 1,352.1 218.0
Initial Claims (NSA) 202.9 219.9 196.0 -73.2 473.0 1,352.7 217.6
Continuing Claims -- 1,419.0 1,490.0 -65.6 3,260.9 10,379.7 1,699.0
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 1,806.0 1,912.0 -59.8 3,259.7 10,369.7 1,703.6
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 1.0 1.1

(Mar 2021)

2.3 7.1 1.2
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