National jobless claims up slightly; Washington claims down. Rural workforce has yet to rebound.

Nationally the U.S. Department of Labor reports initial regular unemployment insurance claims filings increased modestly. 

In the week ending July 3, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 373,000, an increase of 2,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 7,000 from 364,000 to 371,000. The 4-week moving average was 394,500, a decrease of 250 from the previous week’s revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since March 14, 2020 when it was 225,500. The previous week’s average was revised up by 2,000 from 392,750 to 394,750.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.4 percent for the week ending June 26, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week’s unrevised rate.

In Washington, the Employment Security Department reports UI claims are down

During the week of June 27 – July 3, there were 5,924 initial regular unemployment claims (down 21.1 percent from the prior week) and 343,246 total claims for all unemployment benefit categories (down 7.0 percent from the prior week) filed by Washingtonians, according to the Employment Security Department (ESD).  

  • Initial regular claims applications are now 79 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 6,966 (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 fourth consecutive week initial claims have reached a new pandemic low.
  • Initial claims applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) increased over the week. Increases in applications from those in Management occupations as well as from Office and Administrative Support occupations drove some of the increase in PUA applications over the week.
  • Initial claims applications for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and continued/ongoing claims for all benefits decreased over the week.
  • Decreases in layoffs in Accommodation and Food Services and Construction contributed to the decrease in regular initial claims last week.

Some weekly variation is to be expected. Both nationally and here in Washington the trends are good and expected to improve. The Associated Press reports on the national numbers.

Weekly applications, which generally track the pace of layoffs, have fallen steadily this year from more than 900,000 at the start of the year. The four-week average of applications, which smooths out week-to-week volatility, is now 394,500 — the lowest such level since the pandemic erupted in March of last year.

The rollout of vaccinations is driving a potent economic recovery as businesses reopen, employers struggle to fill jobs and consumers emerge from months of lockdown to travel, shop and spend at restaurants, bars, retailers and entertainment venues.

Moreover,

In the first three months of the year, the government has estimated that the economy expanded at a brisk 6.4% annual rate. In the April-June quarter, the annual rate is thought to have reached a sizzling 10%. And for all of 2021, the Congressional Budget Office has projected that growth will amount to 6.7%. That would be the fastest calendar-year expansion since 1984.

The economy is recovering so quickly that many companies can’t find workers fast enough to meet their increased customer demand.

The Seattle Times reports on Washington data.

In Washington, new unemployment claims are down 79% compared to the same time last year. 

Thursday’s is the state’s first weekly unemployment report to include days after Gov. Jay Inslee lifted pandemic restrictions on businesses across the state. Washington’s unemployment rate was 5.3% in May, the latest month for which the ESD has released data.

The new numbers do not yet reflect the return of the state’s job-search requirementstarting July 4. That requirement means claimants are required to look for work and document their search to continue receiving benefits.

On potentially troubling trend identified by the Daily Yonder might be the split between the urban and rural workforce recoveries,

Rural counties added jobs at about the same pace as the rest of the nation in May, but a Daily Yonder analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that the size of the rural workforce has yet to rebound from the pandemic.

Rural counties added 1.3 million jobs from May 2020 to May 2021. In May, rural employment was 2.2% lower than it was in May 2019, long before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic…

In metropolitan counties, the size of the labor force bounced back from May 2020 to May 2021 and is now only 0.9% lower than it was in May 2019, before the pandemic.

In rural counties, however, the size of the labor force took a similar nosedive in May 2020 but barely grew in the subsequent year. The May 2021 rural labor force was down 2.1% compared to the pre-pandemic level. That’s more than twice the rate of decline in the metropolitan labor force.

Click through for an interactive map showing county pre- and post-pandemic employment data.