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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Decrease Modestly
by Carol Stone, CBE  August 5, 2021

• Initial claims still in tight range since May.

• Insured jobless rate decreased to 2.1%, a new pandemic-period low.

• Continued claims down for regular programs, up somewhat for both PUA and PEUC.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance were 385,000 in the week ended July 31, down from 399,000 the prior week. That earlier number was revised from 400,000 reported last week. The four-week moving average was 394,000, down slightly from 394,250 the prior week. In fact, the last ten weeks have averaged 393,000, with a range of 368,000 to 424,000. The Action Economics Forecast Survey consensus for the latest week was 390,000.

Initial claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program rose modestly to 94.476 in the July 31 week from 93,060 the week before; that earlier week was revised downward from 95,166 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 24 fell 366,000 to 2.930 million from 3.296 million the week before. That earlier number was revised from 3.269 million. In the July 24 week, the associated rate of insured unemployment decreased from 2.4% the prior week to 2.1%. This was the lowest rate since the same amount for March 21, 2020, just as the pandemic was emerging.

Continued claims for PUA declined 89,180 in the week ended July 17 to 5.157 million. Continued PEUC claims rose modestly by 12,324 to 4.246 million, a second weekly increase after four declines. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program covers people who have exhausted their state unemployment insurance benefits.

In the week ended July 17, the total number of all state, federal, PUA and PEUC continued claims was 12.975 million, down 181,251 from the week before. As noted last week, this maintains the recent lower level of overall unemployment insurance claims, 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 17, the highest insured unemployment rates were in California (5.17%), Nevada (4.14%), Rhode Island (3.96%), New Jersey (3.72%) and Illinois (3.68%). The lowest rates were in South Dakota (0.34%), Utah (0.63%), Idaho (0.67%), Kansas (0.71%), and Nebraska and North Dakota (both 0.74%). Insured unemployment rates in other large states included New York (3.32%), Pennsylvania (3.02%), Texas (1.62%) and Florida (0.97%). 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) 07/31/21 07/24/21 07/17/21 Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Initial Claims 385 399 424 -63.1 1,352 218 220
Initial Claims (NSA) 324 344 411 -67.1 1,353 218 221
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 94 93 110 -85.4 -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 2,930 3,296 -81.6 10,380 1,699 1,754
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 2,881 3,274 -81.9 10,370 1,704 1,763
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 5,157 -61.7 -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 2.1 2.4

(July 2020)

7.1 1.2 1.2
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