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Economy in Brief

U.S. Unemployment Claims Increased
by Sandy Batten  July 7, 2022

• Initial claims increased 4,000 to 235,000 in the week ended July 2.

• Continued weeks claimed rose 51,000.

• The insured unemployment rate inched up to 1.0% from series low of 0.9%.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance filed in the week ended July 2 increased 4,000 to 235,000 (-41.7% y/y) from 231,000 in the previous week. The Action Economics Forecast Survey had expected a slight decline to 228,000. The four-week moving average of initial claims rose to 232,500 from 231,750 in the prior week. The historically low unemployment claims observed over 2022 have been interpreted as indicating tightness in the labor market and indeed, the JOLTS report earlier this week showed that job openings continued to exceed the number unemployed. However, claims have typically risen ahead of a recession. The recent low for claims was 166,000 in the week of March 19. Since then, claims have trended up and so even though they remain historically low, the rather persistent increases recently may be an early sign of increasing recession risk.

In the week ended June 25, continued weeks claimed for unemployment insurance jumped 51,000 to 1.375 million from 1.324 million in the prior week (revised down 4,000). This is the highest level of continued claims since the week of April 23. The insured unemployment rate inched up to 1.0% from 0.9% in the prior week, a series low first reached in the week ended May 7.

In the week ended June 18, the total number of continued weeks claimed in all unemployment insurance programs rose for the third consecutive week, to 1.328 million from 1.314 million in the previous week. However, these three weekly increases have been from a 36-year low of 1.282 million reached in the week of May 28. This total includes federal employees, newly discharged veterans, extended benefits and other specialized programs and is not seasonally adjusted. Claims in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation are no longer included in the main Labor Department press release, as both programs have expired.

The state insured rates of unemployment in regular programs vary widely. The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending June 18 were in New Jersey (1.89%), California (1.79%), Pennsylvania (1.46%), New York (1.36%) and Alaska (1.33%). The lowest rates were in South Dakota (0.17%), Alabama (0.27%), Virginia (0.27%), New Hampshire (0.28%) and Kansas (0.29%). Other state insured rates of unemployment in regular programs include Illinois (1.25%), Texas (0.82%), Ohio (0.64%) and Florida (0.43%). 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, carried in the AS1REPNA database.

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