Jobless claims up a bit nationally, down a bit in Washington. Overall, the trend remains good.

We’ll lead today with the latest weekly report from the state Employment Security Department on unemployment insurance claims filings. The numbers are falling.

During the week of July 11 – July 17, there were 5,061 initial regular unemployment claims (down 7.8 percent from the prior week) and 315,848 total claims for all unemployment benefit categories (down 7.2 percent from the prior week) filed by Washingtonians, according to the Employment Security Department (ESD).  

  • Initial regular claims applications are now 83 percent below weekly new claims applications during the same period last year during the pandemic.
  • The 4-week moving average for initial claims is at 5,995 (as compared to the 4-week moving average of initial claims pre-pandemic of 6,071 initial claims). That level represents the lowest levels of initial claims for regular benefits since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, and the sixth consecutive week initial claims have reached a new pandemic low.
  • Initial claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which increased by 241 applications over the week, occurred in three occupations: Production, Office and Administration as well as Building and Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance
  • Initial claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which increased by 78 applications over the week, occurred in three service categories: Administrative and Support, Waste Management and Remediation as well as Professional, Scientific and Technical services.
  • Continued/ongoing claims for all benefits decreased over the week
  • Decreases in layoffs in Educational Services and Retail Trade contributed to the decrease in regular initial claims last week.

Seattle Times business reporter Paul Roberts writes,

New jobless claims fell last week in Washington to their lowest level since the start of the pandemic as the recovering state economy continues to reopen and add jobs.

Also,

The state saw fewer new claims last week than it has during any other week since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. In fact, the number of new claims filed last week is actually lower than the state was receiving during the weeks before the first pandemic-related layoffs last year.

Washington has also seen a solid increase in hiring. Employers added 24,100 jobs in June, up substantially from 9,100 in May, the ESD reported last week. The state unemployment rate for June was 5.2%, unchanged from May’s revised figure.

Expectations, he writes, are for the positive trends to continue.

Economists and business leaders expect jobless claims to continue to decline in Washington as the state economy reopens and as safety net programs shift toward a post-pandemic status.

Last month, Gov. Jay Inslee lifted most of the remaining COVID-related restrictions on businesses in Washington. And earlier this month, the state reimposed a requirement that Washingtonians collecting jobless benefits must search for work to keep those benefits coming.

Nationally, claims are up some, the U.S. Department of Labor reports.

In the week ending July 17, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 419,000, an increase of 51,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 8,000 from 360,000 to 368,000. The 4-week moving average was 385,250, an increase of 750 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised up by 2,000 from 382,500 to 384,500.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.4 percent for the week ending July 10, unchanged from the previous week’s unrevised rate.

The numbers don’t seem to justify concern at present. The Associated Press writes,

Economists characterized last week’s increase as most likely a blip caused by some one-time factors and partly a result of the inevitable bumpiness in the week-to-week data. Applications for jobless aid jumped last week, for example, in Michigan, where GM has announced that it’s shutting down truck production because of supply shortages.

“I do not worry that this reading signals a sudden weakening in labor demand,” said Stephen Stanley, an economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities. “In fact, I am quite confident that it does not.”

Americans are shopping, traveling and eating out more as the pandemic has waned, boosting the economy and forcing businesses to scramble for more workers. Companies have posted the highest number of available jobs in the two decades that the data has been tracked. Hiring has picked up, though businesses say they often can’t find enough employees at the wages they’re willing to pay.

Overall, another good week in the labor market.