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Economy in Brief

U.S. Unemployment Claims Decline Again; Rate Remains at Record Low
by Carol Stone, CBE  March 24, 2022

• Initial claims noticeably lower than forecast.

• Continued claims below pre-pandemic amounts.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance were 187,000 in the week ended March 19 (-71.6% y/y) following 215,000 the week before. That prior week was revised from 214,000 reported before. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected 211,000 claims for the latest week. The 4-week moving average of initial claims decreased to 211,750 from 223,250 in the prior week.

In the week ended March 12, continued weeks claimed for unemployment insurance were 1.350 million, down from 1.417 million in the previous week. These figures are below the 1.715 million of March 7, 2020, immediately before the pandemic and are also the lowest since 1970. The insured unemployment rate remained at the record low 1.0% of the March 5 week. As noted in last week’s commentary, these data on the insured unemployment rate began in 1971.

In the week ended March 5, the number of continued weeks claimed in all unemployment insurance programs decreased 110,749 to 1.858 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 March 5, the highest insured unemployment rates were in California (2.53%), New Jersey (2.36%), Rhode Island (2.32%), Alaska (2.29%) and Illinois (2.26%). The lowest rates were in Virginia (0.18%), Alabama (0.21%), North Carolina (0.32%), Tennessee (0.41%) and Florida (0.42%). Other state insured rates of unemployment in regular programs include New York (2.11%). Pennsylvania (1.83%), Ohio (1.06%) 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) 03/19/22 03/12/22 03/05/22 Y/Y % 2021 2020 2019
Initial Claims 187.0 215.0 229.0 -71.6 473.3 1,352.1 218.0
Initial Claims (NSA) 181.1 203.9 219.9 -72.2 473.0 1,352.7 217.6
Continuing Claims -- 1,350.0 1,417.0 -64.9 3,260.9 10,379.7 1,699.0
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 1,731.0 1,804.0 -59.1 3,259.7 10,369.7 1,703.6
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 1.0 1.0

(Mar 2021)

2.3 7.1 1.2
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