Jobless Claims Rise to the Highest Level Since Early September


In the week ending December 12, weekly initial jobless claims increased to 885,000, the highest level since early September. Continuing claims, which lag initial jobless claims by one week, decreased by 273,000. The number of initial jobless claims increased in the first two weeks of December as cities and states tightened COVID-19 restrictions.

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 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted level of 885,000 for the week ending December 12. It was the highest level since the week ending September 5. This week’s jobless claims were 87% lower than the peak of 7 million and 214% higher than the pre-pandemic level of 0.3 million in the week ending March 14. The 39-week’s total jobless claims reached 71.4 million. The four-week moving average increased to 812,500, from a revised average of 778,250 in the previous week.

Meanwhile, the number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment (in regular state programs), known as continuing claims, declined by 273,000 to a seasonally adjusted level of 5,508,000 in the week ending December 5. It was closer to the level of 5.1 million in the week ending March 28. The four-week moving average declined to 5,726,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 5,941,750. The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate decreased by 0.1 percentage point to 3.8% for the week ending December 5. 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 increased by 552,349 to 5,766,130 in the week ending November 28. Meanwhile, the number of persons claiming unemployment insurance benefits in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program increased by 688,793, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program increased by 268,532.

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 935,138 in the week ending December 12, a decrease of 21,335 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 12. Like the previous week, California, Illinois and New York had the most advanced initial claims. California led the way with 202,627 initial claims, followed by Illinois with 142,745 initial claims and New York with 58,023 initial claims. South Dakota, Wyoming and Vermont had the least advanced initial claims.

For the week ending December 12, Illinois, California and Kansas had the largest increases in advanced initial claims. Illinois reported an increase of 35,129 advanced initial claims, California increased by 23,903 and Kansas increased by 6,290. About 33 states reported declines in advanced initial claims. Texas (-11,903), Georgia (-9,717), and Minnesota (-9,254) had the largest decreases in advanced initial claims.

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