Weekly Initial Claims for Unemployment Benefits Continue to Hover Just Under 400,000

Initial claims for regular state unemployment insurance totaled 375,000 for the week ending August 7, a drop of 12,000 from the previous week’s revised tally of 387,000 (see first chart). The latest data show weekly initial claims continue to hover just under the 400,000 level. Over the last 12 weeks, claims have averaged 392,333, with lows of 368,000 (on June 26 and July 10) and a high of 424,000 (July 17).

The four-week average rose 1,750 to 396,250, above the 12-week average and the highest since July 3rd. Record numbers of openings continue to be reported across many industries, yet labor force participation remains low, making it difficult to fill the positions. Churn across the labor market remains high as employees quit in record numbers, looking to move to better paying and/or better-quality jobs. However, the Delta variant continues to drive new Covid cases higher and raise uncertainty for many businesses.

The number of ongoing claims for state unemployment programs totaled 2.916 million for the week ending July 24, a drop of 342,689 from the prior week. The latest reading is the 18th consecutive week below 4 million and the first below 3 million since the start of the pandemic (see second chart).

Continuing claims in all federal programs totaled 10.059 million for the week ending July 24, an increase of 342,557, nearly offsetting the drop in state continuing claims. The latest result is the 11th consecutive week that Federal continuing claims have been below the 12 to 16 million range. However, it is also the second increase in the last three weeks (see second chart).

The latest results for the two programs put the total number of people claiming benefits in all unemployment programs, including all emergency programs, at 12.975 million for the week ended July 24, a drop of just 132 from the prior week and the 13th consecutive week below 16 million (see second chart).

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