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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Fall to Lowest Since Pandemic Started
by Carol Stone, CBE  April 15, 2021

• Initial claims lower than forecast.

• Continuing claims did rise slightly; jobless rate edges upward.

• Claims for PUA and PEUC benefits both decreased.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance dropped by 193,000 in the week ended April 10 to 576,000. This was the lowest number of standard initial claims since the 256,000 of the March 14, 2020 week, just when the COVID-19 pandemic was starting to impact society and the economy. The April 3, 2021, number was revised from 744,000 to 769,000. The Action Economics Forecast Survey anticipated 710,000 initial claims for the latest week. The 4-week moving average fell from 730,250 in the April 3 week to 683,000 in this latest week.

Initial claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program also fell, reaching 131,975 in the April 10 week from 152,419 the week before. This latest amount was the smallest since 78,893 in the April 11, 2020, right after the program started. The PUA program covers individuals such as the self-employed who are not included in regular state unemployment insurance. Given the brief history of this program, which started April 4, 2020, these and other COVID-related series are not seasonally adjusted.

Continuing claims for regular state unemployment insurance edged up to 3.731 million in the April 3 week from 3.727 million the previous week; that earlier week was revised down slightly from 3.734 million reported initially. The state insured rate of unemployment ticked up to 2.7% from the prior week's 2.6%.

Continuing PUA claims fell by 500,715 in the March 27 week to 7.054 million. In that same week, the number of Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) claims also fell, reaching 5.160 million, down from 5.635 million in the prior week. That program covers people who were unemployed before COVID but exhausted their state benefits. Extended PEUC benefits, which were included in the American Rescue Plan bill, totaled 612,698.

The total number of all state, federal, and PUA and PEUC continuing claims fell to 16.934 million, down 1.236 million on the week. This was again the lowest level since the first week of January. This grand total is not seasonally adjusted.

The state insured rates of unemployment continued to vary widely. In the week ending March 27, the highest insured unemployment rates were in Nevada (5.13%), Connecticut (5.04%) Alaska (4.71%), Pennsylvania (4.57%), and Illinois (4.30%). The lowest rates were in Kansas (0.62%), Utah (0.86%), Alabama (0.87%), South Dakota (0.91%), and Nebraska (1.18%).3%). Insured unemployment rates in other large states included New York (4.08%). California (3.72%), Texas (2.46%) and Florida (1.59%). 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) 04/10/21 04/03/21 03/27/21 Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Initial Claims 576 769 729 -88 1,352 218 220
Initial Claims (NSA) 613 766 724 -87 1,353 218 221
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 132 152 237 -- -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 3,731 3,727 -70 10,380 1,699 1,754
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 3,937 4,025 -68 10,370 1,704 1,763
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 7,054 -- -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) 2.7 2.6

(Apr 2020)

7.1 1.2 1.2
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