Initial and Continuing Claims Fall


According to the Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims Report released by the U.S. Department of Labor today, weekly initial jobless claims declined by 36,000 in the week ending September 26, and continuing claims, which lag initial jobless claims by one week, decreased by nearly 1 million to 11.8 million for the week ending September 19. The decreases in initial jobless claims and continuing claims indicate that labor market continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, albeit slowly.

In the week ending September 26, the number of initial jobless claims decreased by 36,000 to a seasonally adjusted level of 837,000, from the previous week’s revised level. This week’s initial jobless claims were 88% lower than the peak of 7 million but 197% higher than the pre-pandemic level of 0.3 million in the week ending March 14. This week’s new claims brought the 28-week’s total to 62.8 million. The four-week moving average decreased to 867,250, from a revised average of 879,000 in the previous week.

Meanwhile, the number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment (in regular state programs), known as continuing claims, decreased by 980,000 to a seasonally adjusted level of 11,767,000 in the week ending September 19. It is the third consecutive decrease and the lowest level after continuing claims hit 24.9 million in the early of May. The four-week moving average declined to 12,701,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 13,082,500. The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate decreased by 0.6 percentage point to 8.1% for the week ending September 19. The previous week’s rate was revised up by 0.1 percentage point from 8.6% to 8.7%.

As mentioned in today’s technical note, the state of California has announced a two week pause in its processing of initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits. The state will use this time to reduce its claims processing backlog and implement fraud prevention technology. California’s initial claims published in the UI Claims News Release will reflect the level reported during the last week prior to the pause.

California has been mentioned in our previous analyses as one of the top ten states with the most advanced initial jobless claims in the past several weeks.

Besides initial jobless claims, the UI Claims News Release also reports continuing claims, pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA), and pandemic emergency unemployment compensation (PEUC) weekly at the state level. These claims showed that jobless claims for California were relatively high given the number of the California labor force.

For example, during the week ending August 22, nearly 9.9 million workers in California filed jobless claims, including 2.6 million continuing claims, 7.0 million PUA, and about 0.4 million PEUC. It was the highest level in the history of the data series on record. Meanwhile, the employment data, released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), showed that there were about 19 million labor force in California in August, representing 12% of the total U.S. civilian labor force. In other word, half of workers in California lost their jobs and have applied jobless claims. However, the unemployment rate in California was 11.4% in August, reported by the BLS.

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