Unemployment claims dropped nationally and in Washington last week

Another Thursday, another weekly unemployment filings report. Claims, both nationally and in Washington state, dropped last week. The U.S. Department of Labor reports

In the week ending January 23, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 847,000, a decrease of 67,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 14,000 from 900,000 to 914,000. The 4-week moving average was 868,000, an increase of 16,250 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised up by 3,750 from 848,000 to 851,750.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 3.4 percent for the week ending January 16, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week’s revised rate. The previous week’s rate was revised down by 0.1 from 3.6 to 3.5 percent. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending January 16 was 4,771,000, a decrease of 203,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised down by 80,000 from 5,054,000 to 4,974,000. The 4-week moving average was 4,998,000, a decrease of 106,750 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised down by 21,500 from 5,126,250 to 5,104,750.

The Washington Employment Security Department reports

During the week of January 17-23, there were 16,461 initial regular unemployment claims (down 14.3 percent from the prior week) and 482,158 total claims for all unemployment benefit categories (up 2.8 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 107 percent above last year’s weekly new claims applications.
  • Initial claims for regular unemployment, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) all decreased over the week.
  • Reductions in layoffs in accommodation and food services and in the retail trade sector drove a decrease in new regular jobless claims last week. Regular initial claims in the accommodation and food services sector decreased by 464 claims over the week to 1,814 total regular initial claims. In the retail trade sector initial claims decreased by 318 initial claims over the week.
  • Extended Benefits claims accounted for the bulk of the increase in continued claims over the week.  Extended Benefits claims increased across all industry sectors over the week, with the Accommodation and Food services (+794) and Retail trade (+515) sectors experiencing the largest increases.

The Seattle Times provides additional context.

New jobless claims in Washington state fell last week, but still remain well above their pre-pandemic levels as public health restrictions continue to fuel layoffs and economic uncertainty…

Last week’s decline was driven, in part, by fewer claims from workers at hotels, restaurants and retailers — sectors that were hit hard by recent public health restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.

Nationally, the number of new jobless claims fell to 847,000, a 7.3% decline over the prior week, the U.S. Labor Department reported.

Thursday’s unemployment numbers come amid other downbeat economic reports.

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported Thursday that national economic output in 2020 fell by 3.5% compared with 2019 (which, in contrast, grew by 2.2% compared with 2018).

The downward trend is welcome, but slow and fragile.