Slight increase in weekly unemployment claims nationally; slight decrease in claims in Washington.

The U.S. Department of Labor reports a slight increase in claims for unemployment benefits last week.

In the week ending March 13, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 770,000, an increase of 45,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 13,000 from 712,000 to 725,000. The 4-week moving average was 746,250, a decrease of 16,000 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised up by 3,250 from 759,000 to 762,250.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 3.0 percent for the week ending March 6, an increase of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week’s unrevised rate.

The state Employment Security Department reports a small decline in claims filings.

During the week of March 7 – March 13, there were 11,699 initial regular unemployment claims (down 0.5 percent from the prior week) and 449,838 total claims for all unemployment benefit categories (down 0.8 percent from the prior week) filed by Washingtonians, according to the Employment Security Department (ESD).

  • Initial regular claims applications are now 17 percent below weekly new claims applications during the same period last year at the start of the pandemic.
  • Initial claims remain elevated (as compared to the 4-week moving average of initial claims pre-pandemic of 6,071 initial claims) and are now at similar levels of initial claims filed during the Great Recession.
  • Decreases in layoffs in the Administrative Support Services sector and Arts, Entertainment & Recreation led the overall decrease in regular initial claims last week. 
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) initial claims increased over the week.

The Associated Press report on the national numbers includes this statement that would also apply to the Washington experience. 

“Labor market strains are ongoing, but we expect filings (for unemployment aid) to start declining as restrictions are lifted and more normal operations resume,” Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, said in a research note. “As businesses return to full capacity, job and income prospects will improve and, combined with fiscal support, will provide a powerful lift to the economy.”

Soon, please.