Slow Progress in UI & PUA Claims, Holding Above 1 Million


November 12, 2020

Initial unemployment insurance (UI) claims fell last week, on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, but held above 1 million weekly claims for the 34rd week in a row. This latest report signals  slow progress in stemming the tide of layoffs in recent weeks. While the labor market is on the path towards recovery, 10 million fewer Americans are employed now than in February and weekly claims are still above peak levels seen during the Great Recession.

As the winter approaches, COVID-19 cases are on the rise around the country. The impending winter months could worsen both the dual pandemic and economic crises just at a time when relief for millions is set to expire. Such a scenario could create a worrying cycle of workers being pushed back into the workforce amid a raging pandemic that further suppresses economic activity. 

While the country is facing an escalating dual health and economic crisis, the prospect of Congressional action is fading as negotiations over extending additional relief to Americans appear stalled. President-elect Biden will have a chance to restart negotiations after inauguration, but a three-month delay in relief could prove too little, too late.

Today’s UI Claims Report

Initial UI claims rose to 723,105 from 743,904, on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, according to the latest figures from the Department of Labor for the week ending November 7. On a seasonally-adjusted basis, claims fell to 709,000 from 757,000, with a larger drop amplified by shifting seasonal adjustment.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims fell to 298,154. Overall, UI and PUA claims combined fell to 1.02 million, marking the 34th week with over 1 million new weekly claims.

Non-seasonally adjusted continuing claims for UI fell to 6.5 million for the week ending October 31, continuing a rapid decline starting from mid-September. Most of the decline is because traditional UI benefits are being exhausted for millions of unemployed Americans, highlighting one difficulty with using UI claims data to measure the economic recovery.

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