Another New Pandemic Low for Weekly Initial Claims for Unemployment Benefits – Robert Hughes (05/25/2021)

Initial claims for regular state unemployment insurance fell to 444,000 for the week ending May 15, a decrease of 34,000 from the previous week’s upwardly revised tally of 478,000 (see first chart). The current result is the fifth decline in the last six weeks and the sixth consecutive week below the 700,000 to 900,000 range. The continuing declining trend suggests an improving outlook for the labor market and overall economy.

The four-week average fell 30,500 to 504,750, also the sixth consecutive week below 700,000 and the sixth consecutive decline. Initial claims are likely to continue trending lower as the combination of vaccine distribution and easing government restrictions on consumers and businesses push the economy closer to pre-pandemic levels of activity.

The number of ongoing claims for state unemployment programs totaled 3.669 million for the week ending May 1, a drop of 78,645 from the prior week. The latest reading is the sixth consecutive week below 4 million and the 10th consecutive week of decline (see second chart).

Continuing claims in all federal programs totaled 12.307 million for the week ending May 1, a decrease of 807,923. Since the beginning of June 2020, continuing claims in all Federal programs have been in the 12 to 16 million range, averaging 13.926 million (see second chart).

The total number of people claiming benefits in all unemployment programs including all emergency programs was 15.975 million for the week ended May 1, down 886,568 from the prior week and the first week below the 16-to-18 million range since the early days of the pandemic (see second chart).

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