Jobless Claims Rise to 853,000


In the week ending December 5, weekly initial jobless claims increase to 853,000, the highest level since mid-September. Continuing claims, which lag initial jobless claims by one week, ticked up for the first time after twelve consecutive decreases. There is no doubt that the labor market is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic gradually. However, increases in both initial jobless claims and continuing claims suggest that the road back to full employment is uneven, as the COVID-19 crisis continues.

According to the Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims Report released by the U.S. Department of Labor today, the number of initial jobless claims rose by 137,000 to a seasonally adjusted level of 853,000 for the week ending December 5. It was the highest level since the week ending September 19. This week’s jobless claims were 88% lower than the peak of 7 million and 202% higher than the pre-pandemic level of 0.3 million in the week ending March 14. The 38-week’s total jobless claims reached 70.5 million. The four-week moving average increased to 776,000, from a revised average of 740,500 in the previous week.

In addition to the increase in initial jobless claims, the number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment (in regular state programs), known as continuing claims, rose by 230,000 to a seasonally adjusted level of 5,757,000 in the week ending November 28. It marks the first increase after twelve consecutive declines. The four-week moving average declined to 5,935,750 from the previous week’s revised average of 6,196,000. The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate increased by 0.1 percentage point to 3.8% for the week ending November 28. The previous week’s rate was unrevised. However, these rates need to be understood in the context of a lower labor force participation rate.

On a not seasonally adjusted basis, states’ regular unemployment insurance claims decreased by 676,508 to 5,213,712 in the week ending November 21. Meanwhile, the number of persons claiming unemployment insurance benefits in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program declined by 313,739, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program decreased by 36,140.

The U.S. Department of Labor also released the advanced number of actual initial claims under state programs without seasonal adjustments. The unadjusted number of advanced initial claims totaled 947,504 in the week ending December 5, an increase of 228,982 from the previous week.

The chart above presents the top 10 states ranked by the number of advanced initial claims for the week ending December 5. Like last week, California, Illinois and New York had the most advanced initial claims. California led the way with 177,837 initial claims, followed by Illinois with 105,599 initial claims and New York with 63,391 initial claims. District of Columbia, South Dakota and Wyoming had the least advanced initial claims.

For the week ending December 5, California, Illinois and Texas had the largest increases in advanced initial claims. California reported an increase of 47,454 advanced initial claims, Illinois increased by 31,468 and Texas increased by 19,871. Six states reported declines in advanced initial claims. Louisiana (-4,941), Kentucky (-1,383), and Michigan (-795) had the largest decreases in advanced initial claims.

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