Initial Jobless Claims: How Far We Have Come and How Far We Need To Go

By at 8 July, 2021, 3:33 pm

by Raymond J. Keating –

The latest “Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims Report” from the U.S. Department of Labor offers a picture of how far the labor market has recovered from the initial pandemic shock, and how far we still have to go to simply get back to where we were before.

For the week ending July 3, 2021, initial jobless claims (seasonally adjusted) edged up from 371,000 the prior week to 373,000. The Labor Department noted:

“The 4-week moving average was 394,500, a decrease of 250 from the previous week’s revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since March 14, 2020 when it was 225,500.”

A year earlier, initial jobless claims came in 1,398,000. At their highest point, they hit 6,149,000 in early April 2020, and before the pandemic, they registered 205,000 in early February 2020.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, FRED

As for continuing claims, these came in at 3,339,000 for the week of June 26, which was down from the previous week’s 3,484,000.

A year earlier, the level stood at 16,780,000. At their highest point, they hit 23,128,000 in early May 2020, and before the pandemic, they registered 1,698,000 in early February 2020

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, FRED

Finally, for benefits in all programs (not seasonally adjusted), the Labor Department reported:

“The total number of continued weeks claimed for benefits in all programs for the week ending June 19 was 14,209,007… There were 33,228,122 weekly claims filed for benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2020.”

In June 2019, this level registered 1,582,283.

The Bottom Line

The data on continued claims for all programs drives home the bottom-line point.

First, consider the headway made over the past year, with the number of claims filed plummeting from 33,228,122 in June 2020 to 14,209,007 in June 2021. However, in June 2019, that number stood at 1,582,283.

So, the number of people receiving unemployment benefits of some kind remain at breathtakingly high level, which in turn, of course, speaks to issues like the tight labor market and supply chain issues.

Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.


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