Jobless Claims Appear to Be Hostage to COVID-19

The U.S. Labor Department has released its reading on jobless claims for the week of November 7, 2020. The week was more focused on the election than anything else, but jobless claims fell by 48,000 to 709,000. Improvements are happening in the jobs market, but the economy remains hostage to COVID-19 as the cases explode higher.

The Dow Jones (Wall Street Journal) estimate called for weekly claims to be 740,000. Also worth noting was that the prior weekly level was revised up by 6,000 to 757,000.

Weekly jobless claims are continuing to come down, but the choppiness has remained at greatly elevated levels of closer to 200,000 per week before the pandemic.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the total number of Americans collecting unemployment benefits through regular state programs was 6.78 million as of the week ending October 31. The prior weekly reading was 7.22 million, although it had been revised lower by some 63,000 from a preliminary 7.28 million.

Many economists are choosing to keep a focus on the nonseasonally adjusted jobs reports for now. After all, these measure the actual number of claims without smoothing the data out. The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs was actually 723,105 on an unadjusted basis for the week of November 7. This was down just 20,799 from the previous week, and the BLS indicated that seasonal factors had expected an increase of 27,098 from the prior week.

The BLS compiles some absolute totals showing extended benefits, pandemic unemployment assistance, pandemic emergency unemployment compensation and so on, but the most recent data were for the week of October 24, 2020. That figure was down nearly 375,000 from the prior week at 21,157,111 people.

Progress is being made in the jobs front as a whole, but with COVID-19 cases skyrocketing and with the threat of another potential lockdown, these claims likely will remain bumpy until a vaccine and more treatments for the coronavirus actually are widely available.