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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Decrease to Pandemic Low
by Carol Stone, CBE  July 1, 2021

• Continuing claims for state benefits rose moderately.

• PUA claims rose for third consecutive week, but held to recent flat trend.

• Total weeks claimed decrease to low since April 4, 2020.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance fell 51,000 in the week ended June 26 to 364,000 from 415,000 in the previous week, which was initially 411,000. The June 26 number was the lowest since March 14, 2020, just as the pandemic was settling in. The Action Economics Forecast Survey panel expected new claims to decline to 389,000. The 4-week moving average fell 6,000 last week to 392,750 from 398,750.

Initial claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program rose for a third consecutive week, increasing to 115,267 in the June 26 week from an upward-revised 111,778 in the prior week (initially 104,682). Despite the three increases, the number of claims is maintaining a flat pattern near pandemic lows; this has been in place since early April. The PUA program provides benefits to individuals who are not eligible for regular state unemployment insurance benefits, such as the self-employed. Given the brief history of this program, these and other COVID-related series are not seasonally adjusted.

Continuing claims for regular state unemployment insurance rose 56,000 in the week ended June 19 to 3.469 million; the prior week was revised upward 23,000 to 3.413 million. The insured rate of unemployment was also revised upward, going back to the 2.5% of the prior two weeks, and it remained there in the June 19 week. This rate reached a high of 15.9% in the week of May 9, 2020.

Continued claims for PUA fell to 5.936 million in the week ended June 12, again the lowest since the week ended April 25, 2020, from 5.951 in the previous week. Continued PEUC claims maintained their recent tight range, decreasing 12,117 to 5.262 million in the June 12 week from 5.274 million in the previous week. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program covers people who have exhausted their state unemployment insurance benefits.

The total number of all state, federal, and PUA and PEUC continued weeks claimed was 14.660 million in the week ended June 12, a decrease of 180,890 from the previous week. This was the lowest continued weeks claimed since April 4, 2020. These figures are not seasonally adjusted.

The state insured rates of unemployment in regular programs continued to vary widely. In the week ending May 29, the highest insured unemployment rates were in Rhode Island (5.10%), Nevada (4.43%), Connecticut (3.80%) California (3.61%) and Illinois (3.55%). The lowest rates were in South Dakota (0.61%), Alabama (0.65%), Utah (0.68%), Nebraska (0.75%) and Idaho (0.83%). Insured unemployment rates in other large states included New York (3.42%), Texas (1.63%) and Florida (1.07%). 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) 06/26/21 06/19/21 06/12/21 Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Initial Claims 364 415 418 -74.7 1,352 218 220
Initial Claims (NSA) 359 397 408 -74.8 1,353 218 221
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 115 112 98 -88.4 -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 3,469 3,413 -80.4 10,380 1,699 1,754
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 3,271 3,233 -81.3 10,370 1,704 1,763
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 5,936 -55.1 -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 2.5 2.5

(June 2020)

7.1 1.2 1.2
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