Jobless Claims Were Little Changed


During the week of New Year’s, weekly initial jobless claims totaled 787,000, little changed from the previous week. Continuing claims, which lag initial jobless claims by one week, decreased by 126,000. Weekly initial jobless claims peaked at nearly 7 million in the spring of 2020 and have remained at around 0.8 million since the fall of 2020 and into 2021, about four times higher than the pre-pandemic average. Going into 2021, the labor market will continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims Report released by the U.S. Department of Labor today, the number of initial jobless claims declined by 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted level of 787,000 for the week ending January 2. During the New Year’s week, jobless claims were 89% lower than the peak of 7 million and four times higher than the pre-pandemic average of 0.2 million. The 42-week’s total jobless claims reached 73.8 million. The four-week moving average decreased to 818,750, from a revised average of 837,500 in the previous week.

Meanwhile, the number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment (in regular state programs), known as continuing claims, declined by 126,000 to a seasonally adjusted level of 5,072,000 in the week ending December 26. It was the lowest level since the week ending March 21. The four-week moving average declined to 5,274,750 from the previous week’s revised average of 5,452,000. The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 3.5% for the week ending December 26, unchanged from the previous week’s revised rate. 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 188,079 to 5,205,760 in the week ending December 19. Meanwhile, the number of persons claiming unemployment insurance benefits in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program declined by 70,553, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program decreased by 293,434.

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 922,072 in the week ending January 2, an increase of 77,400 from the previous week.

The chart above presents the top 10 states ranked by the number of advanced initial claims for the week ending January 2. Like the previous week, the top three states with the most advanced initial claims were California, New York and Illinois. California led the way with 160,029 initial claims, followed by New York with 56,184 initial claims and Illinois with 47,721 initial claims. South Dakota, Wyoming and District of Columbia had the least advanced initial claims.

For the week ending January 2, Colorado, Kansas and Louisiana had the largest increases in advanced initial claims. Colorado reported an increase of 18,777 advanced initial claims, Kansas increased by 15,863 and Louisiana increased by 14,226. About one fifth states reported declines in advanced initial claims. Illinois (-62,765), California (-8,703), and Florida (-5,092) had the largest decreases in advanced initial claims.

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