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Economy in Brief

U.S. Unemployment Insurance Claims Continued to Fall
by Sandy Batten  October 21, 2021

• Initial claims are approaching pre-pandemic levels; lowest since March 14, 2020.

• Continuing claims remain on downtrend.

• Insured unemployment rate falls further below 2%.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance fell to 290,000 (-63.7% y/y) in the week ending October 16 from 296,000 the previous week, revised up slightly from 293,000. The Action Economics Forecast Survey had expected 304,000 initial claims for the latest week. The 4-week moving average fell to 319,750 from 335,000. Both the most-recent week claims and the four-week average were the lowest since March 14, 2020.

Initial claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program in the week ended October 16 were 2,338 (-99.3% y/y) versus 21,894 in the prior week. The latest number was the lowest level since the program began on April 4, 2020, at the start of the pandemic. By comparison, these claims averaged 107,756 per week during August. The PUA program provided benefits to individuals who are not eligible for regular state unemployment insurance benefits, such as the self-employed. This program expired on September 4, explaining the smaller number of new claims during the last few weeks. Given the brief history of this program, these and other COVID-related series are not seasonally adjusted.

Continued weekly claims for regular state unemployment insurance fell during the week of October 9 to 2.481 million from a slightly upwardly revised 2.603 million in the previous week. The insured unemployment rate edged down to 1.8% from 1.9% in the previous week. Both were the lowest reading since March 14, 2020. Continued weekly claims in the Pandemic Assistance Program (PUA) program dropped to 517,949 in the week of October 2 from 549,103 in the previous week, as the program continued to wind down. Continued weekly claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) declined to 331,567 in the week of October 2 from 440,435 in the previous week and from 3.645 million in the week ended September 4 (the last week of the program). This program covered people who had exhausted their state unemployment insurance benefits.

In the week ended October 2, the total number of all state, federal, PUA and PEUC continued claims fell to 3.279 million from 3.649 million in the prior week and from 11.250 million in the week ended September 4. These total claims averaged 4.032 million over the four weeks ended October 2. These figures are not seasonally adjusted.

The state insured rates of unemployment in regular programs continues to vary widely. In the week ending October 2, the highest insured unemployment rates were in Illinois (3.51%), California (3.26%), Hawaii (3.01%), New Jersey (2.69%) and Nevada (2.64%). The lowest rates were in South Dakota (0.17%), Alabama (0.31%), North Dakota (0.36%), Idaho (0.38%) and Nebraska (0.40%). Insured unemployment rates in other large states included Pennsylvania (2.31%), New York (2.15%), Texas (1.19%), Ohio (0.95%), and Florida (0.67%). 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) 10/16/21 10/9/21 10/2/21 Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Initial Claims 290 296 329 -63.7 1,352 218 220
Initial Claims (NSA) 256 281 262 -66.2 1,353 218 221
Initial Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) 2 22 23 -99.3 -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 2,481 2,603 -70.4 10,380 1,699 1,754
Continuing Claims (NSA) -- 2,169 2,263 -73.2 10,370 1,704 1,763
Continuing Claims Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (NSA) -- -- 518 -95.1 -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 1.8 1.9

(Oct 2020)

7.1 1.2 1.2
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