Jobless Claims Now at Lowest Level Since the Start of the Pandemic

Weekly jobless claims had held persistently above the 800,000 line again after vast improvements had been seen. Now the jobless claims appear to be at the lowest level since the pandemic began.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported that the week of October 17 saw 55,000 fewer claims to 787,000. Dow Jones (Wall Street Journal) had a consensus estimate of 875,000 claims. Also noted in the latest report was that the previous week’s level was revised down to 842,000 from 898,000.

The four-week moving average also was lower by 21,500 to 811,250, and the prior week’s moving average was revised down to 832,750 from 866,250.

The Labor Department also noted that its seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 5.7% for the week ending October 10, a drop of 0.7 percentage point.

Continuing claims, for those who have received multiple consecutive weeks of unemployment benefits, are reported with a one-week lag, and this figure fell a sharp 1.02 million to 8.373 million. The previous week’s level also was revised down by 621,000 to 9.397 million.

One note that had caused discrepancies in prior weeks had been some changes made in California. The Labor Department reported that California has now completed its pause in processing of initial claims and has resumed reporting actual unemployment insurance claims. The larger revisions also account for the new additional data from California for the two prior weeks.

Some economists have been more focused on the unadjusted data because it shows a representation of what is happening at the ground level in the pandemic. The Labor Department’s initial claims on the unadjusted basis fell by 73,125 to a total of 756,617 claims in the week of October 17.

The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending October 3 was 23,150,427, a decrease of 1,046,493 from the previous week. There were 1,393,973 persons claiming benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2019.

The number of people collecting unemployment benefits through regular state programs fell by 1 million to about 8.4 million for the week ended October 10. States and territories with the highest insured unemployment rates (measured for October 3) were as follows:

  • Hawaii (14.9%)
  • California (11.5%)
  • Nevada (11.3%)
  • Georgia (9.3%)
  • Puerto Rico (9.3%)
  • Louisiana (8.8%)
  • District of Columbia (8.4%)
  • New Mexico (7.8%)
  • New York (7.7%)
  • Illinois (7.6%)

Stocks did not budge much after the jobless claims report, with the three major equity indexes only fractionally higher after Thursday’s opening bell.