Another decline in Washington initial unemployment claims; nationally, claims also down slightly.

Here in Washington, 18,000 people filed for initial regular unemployment benefits. Nationally, more than 1 million claims were filed. The pandemic continues to pummel the jobs market. If things are getting better – and they appear to be – progress is slow. 

From the state Employment Security Department.

During the week of August 16 through August 22, there were 18,389 initial regular unemployment claims (down 16.2 percent from the prior week) and 568,881 total claims for all unemployment benefit categories (down 4.8 percent from the prior week) filed by Washingtonians, according to the Employment Security Department (ESD).  

  • Initial regular claims applications remain at elevated levels and are at 288 percent above last year’s weekly new claims applications.
  • Regular Unemployment Insurance, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) initial claims as well as continuing claims all decreased over the previous week.

As the table below shows, more than a half million Washingtonians are receiving UI benefits.

Nationally, initial claims filed last week again topped a million. The Department of Labor reports,

In the week ending August 22, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 1,006,000, a decrease of 98,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised down by 2,000 from 1,106,000 to 1,104,000. The 4-week moving average was 1,068,000, a decrease of 107,250 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised down by 500 from 1,175,750 to 1,175,250.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 9.9 percent for the week ending August 15, a decrease of 0.2 percentage point from the previous week’s revised rate.

Again, the trend is encouraging, the pace is no.

Calculated Risk reminds us,

Initial claims, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) are still above 1.6 million per week.

The worst week during the great recession was 665,000. So initial claims are still about 1 million per week higher than the worst week of the great recession! (His emphasis.)

The Associated Press reports,

The number of initial claims has exceeded 1 million every week but one since late March, an unprecedented streak. Before the coronavirus pandemic, they had never topped 700,000 in a week.

“Layoffs are ongoing reflecting interruptions to activity from virus containment that are likely resulting in permanent closures and job losses,’’ Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, wrote in a research report.

Farooqi added that “the risk of permanent damage to the labor market remains high which will slow the pace of recovery. The return to pre-pandemic levels of prosperity is set to be an uncertain and prolonged process.’’

Sobering.