Unemployment Claims Fall to Near Post-Pandemic Low
Initial claims for unemployment insurance fell by 42,000 to their lowest level since November, the Labor Department reported yesterday, nearly matching a post-pandemic low.
The report said for the week ending March 6, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims fell to 712,000, a decrease of 42,000 from the previous week’s revised level, which increased by 9,000 from 745,000 to 754,000. The four-week moving average fell to 759,000, a decrease of 34,000 from the previous week’s revised average.
The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate fell to 2.9 percent for the week ending February 27, a decrease of 0.2 percentage point from the previous week’s revised rate, which rose by 0.1 from 3.0 to 3.1 percent. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending February 27 fell to 4,144,000, a decrease of 193,000 from the previous week’s revised level, which rose by 42,000 from 4,295,000 to 4,337,000. The four-week moving average fell to 4,355,000, a decrease of 103,500 from the previous week’s revised average, which moved up by 10,500 from 4,448,000 to 4,458,500.
The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 709,458 in the week ending March 6, a decrease of 47,170 (or -6.2 percent) from the previous week. The seasonal factors had expected a decrease of 5,529 (or -0.7 percent) from the previous week. Labor reported 200,382 initial claims in the comparable week in 2020. In addition, for the week ending March 6, 53 states reported 478,001 initial claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
The report said the advance unadjusted insured unemployment rate fell to 3.2 percent during the week ending February 27, a decrease of 0.2 percentage point from the prior week. The advance unadjusted level of insured unemployment in state programs totaled 4,584,706, a decrease of 263,642 (or -5.4 percent) from the preceding week. The seasonal factors had expected a decrease of 70,936 (or -1.5 percent) from the previous week. A year earlier the rate was 1.4 percent and volume was 2,057,280.
The total number of continued weeks claimed for benefits in all programs for the week ending February 20 was 20,116,302, an increase of 2,087,376 from the previous week. Labor reported 2,136,741 weekly claims filed for benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2020.
“This is spitting distance from the post-pandemic low of 711K set in November, but still higher than any reading before COVID, just as it has been in each of the past 51 weeks,” said Sarah House, Senior Economist with Wells Fargo Securities, Charlotte, N.C. “The outturn was better than the 725K figure expected by the consensus, however. In a nutshell, this is the least awful it has been over the past year. The pre-pandemic peak for claims was 665K, so a drop of 48K or more would place this leading indicator back into a ‘normal’ range, but still at an elevated level.”
House noted with vaccine distribution underway, a recovery in the hard-hit leisure and hospitality sector should lead to a wave of hiring that will put millions of displaced workers back on the payroll. “Keep in mind the 9.5 million jobs that are still missing since February,” she said.