Weekly Jobless Claims Are Finally Under the 1 Million Mark

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that initial jobless claims showed a continuing and gradual improvement. For the week of August 8, 2020, the weekly initial claims came fell to 963,000. The prior week’s reading of 1.186 million was revised to 1.191 million.

The Econoday consensus estimate called for 1.15 million last week. While the number is still rather ghastly compared to prior pre-recession history, this was the first time that weekly claims have dropped under the 1 million milestone since early in March. In short, this broke a 20-week streak of a million or more in initial claims.

The BLS’s report on the total unadjusted claims was 831,856. Some economists are focused more on this as the true numbers because it removes the so-called seasonal adjustments and shows the real numbers for today. This unadjusted figure was down 156,453 from the prior week.

Thursday’s data showed that the largest drops in weekly claims were in Florida (−23,180), New York (−21,905) and Texas (−11,233).

Note that weekly claims had seemed to see a bottoming trend until this point, implying fewer layoffs. Also note that these weekly claims remain higher than the peak of the last recession.

The headline number did not include 489,000 claims (down over 167,000) filed under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. This program gives compensation to those who normally would not be eligible for benefits, such as independent contractors.

The continuing jobless claims, those taking benefits for two or more weeks, fell again to roughly 15.5 million. This figure comes with a one-week lag (August 1), but it is down by more than 600,000 from the prior report.

The BLS report’s headline number on continued claims only includes regular state programs and not extended compensation programs under the CARES Act.

For the week ending July 25, 2020, the total number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits fell by more than 3 million to 28.26 million. It was only 1.7 million a year earlier.