Initial Claims for Unemployment Benefits Fall Slightly

March 2, 2021

Initial claims for regular state unemployment insurance totaled 751,000 for the week ending October 31, down 7,000 from the previous week’s revised tally of 758,000. Claims have posted a third consecutive week below 800,000 though the level is still high by historical comparison (see first chart). The four-week average was 787,000, down 4,000 from the prior average. The latest week is the 33rd week of historically massive claims. Prior to the lockdowns, initial claims were running around 230,000. Persistent initial claims at such a historically high level remain a troubling sign for the labor market recovery and the economy.

The number of ongoing claims for state unemployment programs totaled 7.436 million for the week ending October 17, down 601,929 from the prior week. For the same week in 2019, ongoing claims were 1.417 million. Continuing claims from state programs have trended lower since the peak in early March. Over the same period, continuing claims in all federal programs have trended higher, reaching 14.092 million for the week ending October 17.

The total number of people claiming benefits in all unemployment programs including all emergency programs was 21.509 million for the week ended October 17, down 1.153 million from the prior week. While there has been improvement from the catastrophic results in March and April, the current levels of weekly initial claims and continuing claims in all programs are still very high.

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