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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Claims Continue to Fall
by Sandy Batten  May 13, 2020

• Initial claims fall to another pandemic low.

• State continuing claims and insured unemployment rate edged down.

• PUA and PEUC continuing claims rose.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance declined to 473,000 in the week ended May 8 from an upwardly revised 507,000 in the previous week (initially 498,000). The Action Economics Forecast Survey panel expected 500,000 new claims. The latest week's figure represents a new low since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, but it remains well above pre-pandemic levels. The 4-week moving average fell to 534,000 in the week ended May 8, also a pandemic low, from 562,250 in the previous week.

Initial claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program rose to 103,571 in the week ended May 8 from a slightly upwardly revised 101,815 (initially 101,214) in the previous week. The PUA program provides benefits to individuals, such as the self-employed, who are not eligible for normal state unemployment insurance benefits. Given the brief history of this program, these and other COVID-related series are not seasonally adjusted.

Continuing claims for regular state unemployment insurance slipped to 3.655 million in the week ended May 1 from 3.700 million the previous week. The state insured rate of unemployment edged down to 2.6% in the week ended May 1 from 2.7% the previous week, the lowest level since the pandemic started. It reached 15.9% in May 2020.

Continuing PUA rose in the week ended April 24, the first increase in three weeks, to 7.284 million from 6.863 million in the prior week. Also in the April 24 week, the number receiving Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) increased to 5.265 million from 4.973 million, which was the lowest level since the second week of February. This program covers people who have exhausted their state benefits.

The total number of all state, federal, and PUA and PEUC continuing claims rose 696,152 to 16,855,264 in the week ended April 24. This compares with a total of 21,863,056 in the comparable week in 2020. This grand total is not seasonally adjusted.

The state insured rates of unemployment continued to vary widely. In the week ending April 24, the highest insured unemployment rates were in Nevada (6.41%), Connecticut (4.89%), Rhode Island (4.61%), Alaska (4.51%) and Vermont (4.47%). The lowest rates were in Kansas (0.65%), South Dakota (0.79%), Nebraska (0.90%), Utah (0.93%) and Alabama (0.97%). Insured unemployment rates in other large states included New York (4.24%), California (3.54%), Texas (2.09%) and Florida (1.51%). 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) 05/08/21 05/01/21 04/24/21 Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Initial Claims 473 507 590 -79.6 1352 218 220
Initial Claims (NSA) 487 514 612 -79.1 1,353 218 221
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 104 102 121 -88.4 -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 3,655 3,700 -82.4 10,380 1,699 1,754
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 3,710 3,796 -82.2 10,370 1,704 1,763
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 7,284 -- -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 2.6 2.7

(May 2020)

7.1 1.2 1.2
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