November 25, 2020 Reading Time: 2 minutes

Initial claims for regular state unemployment benefits totaled 778,000 for the week ending November 21, up 30,000 from the previous week’s revised tally of 748,000, and the second weekly increase since October 10. Despite the increase, claims have posted a sixth consecutive week below 800,000 but the level is still high by historical comparison (see first chart).

The four-week average was 748,500, up 5,000 from the prior average. The increase in the four-week average is the first since July 25th. The latest week is the 36th week of historically massive claims. Prior to the lockdowns, initial claims averaged 211,900 for the first ten weeks of 2020. Persistent initial claims at such a historically high level remain a troubling sign for the labor market recovery and the economy. The recent trend towards renewed government restrictions as the number of new confirmed Covid-19 cases surges is likely to weigh on economic growth.

The number of ongoing claims for state unemployment programs totaled 6.038 million for the week ending November 7, down 414,312 from the prior week. For the same week in 2019, ongoing claims were 1.458 million. Continuing claims from state programs have trended lower since the peak in early March (see second chart).

Over the same period, continuing claims in all federal programs trended higher through early September but appear to be leveling off over the last few months. The number of recipients in all Federal programs ticked up to 14.4 million for the week ending November 7.

The total number of people claiming benefits in all unemployment programs including all emergency programs was 20.452 million for the week ended November 7, up 135,297 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.

Robert Hughes

Bob Hughes

Robert Hughes joined AIER in 2013 following more than 25 years in economic and financial markets research on Wall Street. Bob was formerly the head of Global Equity Strategy for Brown Brothers Harriman, where he developed equity investment strategy combining top-down macro analysis with bottom-up fundamentals. Prior to BBH, Bob was a Senior Equity Strategist for State Street Global Markets, Senior Economic Strategist with Prudential Equity Group and Senior Economist and Financial Markets Analyst for Citicorp Investment Services. Bob has a MA in economics from Fordham University and a BS in business from Lehigh University.

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