Initial Claims for Unemployment Benefits Surge to 965,000

Initial claims for regular state unemployment insurance totaled 965,000 for the week ending January 9, up 181,000 from the previous week’s revised tally of 787,000 (see first chart). Claims have been in the 700,000 to 1 million range for 20 consecutive weeks after hitting a peak of 6.9 million in March. The four-week average was 834,250, up 18,250 from the prior average.  The four-week average has been between 740,000 and 840,000 for 15 consecutive weeks. Prior to the lockdowns, initial claims averaged 212,000 over the first 10 weeks of 2020. Persistent initial claims at such a historically high level remain a threat for the labor market recovery and the economy (see first chart).

The number of ongoing claims for state unemployment programs totaled 5.347 million for the week ending December 26, up 141,512 from the prior week. State programs have been trending lower since early March, but the downward trend has slowed noticeably in recent weeks (see second chart). For the same week in 2019, ongoing claims were 2.144 million.

Continuing claims in all federal programs also fell in the latest week, coming in at 13.060 million for the week ending December 26, down 866,023, the third decline in a row and the lowest level since August 8 (see second chart).

The total number of people claiming benefits in all unemployment programs including all emergency programs was 18.407 million for the week ended December 26, down 744,511 from the prior week. Continuing claims in Federal and state programs are at the lowest level since April 11.

Renewed government restrictions on consumers and businesses amid resurging Covid-19 cases pose a significant threat to the outlook for economic growth. The longer the virus surge continues, consumers remain restricted, and businesses remain closed or limited, the more uncertain a labor market recovery becomes and the higher the probability of a slow and drawn-out economic recovery.

* This article was originally published here

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