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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Ease; Maintain Recent Range
by Carol Stone, CBE  July 29, 2021

• Claims decrease to 400,000; prior week revised up.

• But continuing claims rose in all three major programs.

• Insured jobless rate still holding at post-pandemic low.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance fell to 400,000 in the week ended July 24, down from 424,000 the prior week. That earlier number was revised from 419,000 reported last week. The Action Economics Forecast Survey consensus was 385,000 initial claims. The four-week moving average was 394,500, up from 386,500 the prior week. Initial claims are typically volatile in the summer owing to plant shutdowns and school closings.

Initial claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program decreased to 95,166 in the July 24 week from 109,868 the prior week; that was revised somewhat from 110,257 reported before. 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 in the week ended July 17 rose 7,000 to 3.269 million from 3.262 million. That earlier number was revised from 3.236 million. The last three weeks have thus been very steady at 3.265 million, 3.262 million and 3.269 million. The associated rate of insured unemployment held at 2.4% for a fourth straight week, the lowest since 2.1% the week of March 21, 2020, that is, just as the magnitude of the pandemic was becoming evident.

Continued claims for PUA rose to 5.246 million in the week ended July 10; that was the first increase in seven weeks, although the immediately prior July 3 week had a sizable decline of 553,250. Continued PEUC claims also rose, these by 99,167 to 4.234 million, their first increase since June 5. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program covers people who have exhausted their state unemployment insurance benefits.

In the week ended July 10, the total number of all state, federal, PUA and PEUC continuing claims rose 582,403 to 13.156 million, the first increase since the April 24 week. This does maintain the recent lower level, which is down from a high of 33.228 million in the third week of June 2020. These figures are not seasonally adjusted.

The state insured rates of unemployment in regular programs continued to vary widely. In the week ending July 10, the highest insured unemployment rates were in California (4.44%), Nevada (4.33%), Rhode Island and New Jersey (3.78%) and Illinois (3.72%). The lowest rates were in South Dakota (0.39%), Utah (0.75%), Kansas (0.69%), Idaho (0.71%), and North Dakota (0.83%). Insured unemployment rates in other large states included Pennsylvania (3.46%), New York (3.45%), Texas (1.67%) and Florida (1.15%). 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) 07/24/21 07/17/21 07/10/21 Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Initial Claims 400 424 368 -68.3 1,352 218 220
Initial Claims (NSA) 345 411 392 -71.3 1,353 218 221
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 95 110 96 -89.4 -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 3,269 3,262 -80.7 10,380 1,699 1,754
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 3,247 3,275 -80.8 10,370 1,704 1,763
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 5,246 -62.5 -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 2.4 2.4

(July 2020)

7.1 1.2 1.2
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