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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Jobless Claims Rise in Nov. 14 Week; Continuing Claims Down in Nov. 7 Week
by Carol Stone, CBE  November 19, 2020

• State initial claims climb by 31,000 but maintain recent lower range.

• Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims rise but also maintain low range.

• Continuing claims decreased for state and PUA, while PEUC increase.

• Insured unemployment rate reached lowest since April 18.

Seasonally adjusted state initial claims for unemployment insurance rebounded to 742,000 in the November 14 week from 711,000 the week before; that earlier figure was revised slightly from 709,000. The year-on-year percent change in the November 14 week was 233%. The Action Economics Forecast Survey had estimated 715,000.

A change in the calculation of seasonal adjustment factors created a break in the series in late August. Though the current week-to-week comparison is valid, the comparison to before August 22 is not. For more details, please see the September 3 commentary on jobless claims.

The not seasonally adjusted data, which are comparable across all periods for initial claims, rose to 743,460 in the week ending November 14 from a slightly revised 725,116 (was 723,105). Haver Analytics has calculated methodologically-consistent seasonally adjusted data which matches the Department of Labor seasonally adjusted data since the late-August break.

Claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which covers individuals such as the self-employed who are not included in regular state unemployment insurance, also rose in the week ended November 14, increasing 23,863 to 320,237. Data for this program only go back to April 4 and initial processing backlogs make comparisons to the early figures challenging. Numbers for this and other federal programs are not seasonally adjusted.

Seasonally adjusted continuing claims for unemployment insurance in regular state programs fell by 429,000 in the November 7 week to 6.372 million from 6.801 million the prior week. Haver Analytics methodologically consistent seasonally adjusted continuing claims showed the same readings for those weeks. Not seasonally adjusted continuing claims dropped to 6.081 million from 6.501 million. In the latest week, both seasonally adjusted and not seasonally adjusted series were the lowest since March 21.

Continuing PUA claims, which are lagged an additional week and not seasonally adjusted, decreased to 8.682 million in the October 31 week from 9.433 million the prior week. Meanwhile, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation claims continued to increase to yet another new high, 4.377 million in the week ending October 31. This program covers people who were unemployed before COVID but exhausted their state benefits and are now eligible to receive an additional 13 weeks of unemployment insurance, up to a total of 39 weeks.

The seasonally adjusted state insured rate of unemployment declined to 4.3% in the week ending November 7 from 4.6% the week before. The not-seasonally adjusted rate decreased to 4.2% from 4.4%. Both seasonally adjusted and not seasonally adjusted readings are the lowest since March 21. These data do not include the federal pandemic assistance programs. If you include the latest data available, which is lagged one additional week, the total number of state, PUA and PEUC continuing claims edged down to 19.5 million or 13.3% of the covered employment (the series used by the Labor Department in calculating the insured unemployment rate). This is the lowest since April 18. The highest was 22.0% in the June 20 week.

The state insured rates of unemployment -- which do not include federal programs -- continued to show wide variation. In the October 31 week, the states with the lowest rates include South Dakota at just 0.9%, Utah (1.0%), Idaho (1.1%), Nebraska (1.3%) and Alabama (1.5%). The highest rates were in California (8.28%), Hawaii (8.26%, New Mexico (8.0%) Nevada (7.6%) and Georgia (6.5%). Other large-population states include New York (5.1%), Pennsylvania (6.4%) and Texas (4.3%). 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.

Unemployment Insurance (SA, 000s) 11/14/20 11/07/20 10/31/20 Y/Y % 2019 2018 2017
Initial Claims 742 711 757 233 218 221 244
Initial Claims (NSA) 743 725 744 226 218 221 243
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 320 296 362 -- -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 6,372 6,801 275 1,701 1,756 1,961
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 6,081 6,501 316 1,704 1,763 1,964
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 8,682 -- -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 4.3 4.6

(Nov 2019)

1.2 1.2 1.4
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