Unemployment claims fall nationally and here in Washington.

One positive sign that the labor shortage may be improving is a decline in weekly unemployment claims. If so, then today’s unemployment reports should be seen as good news.

The state Employment Security Deportment reports a 2 percent decline in claims.

During the week of September 26 to October 2, there were 4,814 initial regular unemployment claims, down 2.0 percent from the prior week. Total claims filed by Washingtonians for all unemployment benefit categories numbered 86,615 down 10.8 percent from the prior week.  

  • Initial regular claims applications are 69 percent below weekly new claims applications for the same period last year during the pandemic.
  • The 4-week moving average for regular initial claims was 4,860, a decrease of 98 from the previous week’s 4-week moving average. During the same time in 2019, it was 5,488.
  • Decreases in layoffs in accommodation and food services and retail trade contributed to a decrease of 100 regular initial claims over the previous week.

Nationally, the U.S. Department of Labor also reported a decline in claims, the first drop in four weeks.

In the week ending October 2, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 326,000, a decrease of 38,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 2,000 from 362,000 to 364,000. The 4-week moving average was 344,000, an increase of 3,500 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised up by 500 from 340,000 to 340,500.

From the Associated Press report on the DoL numbers, a more positive spin than we’ve typically seen.

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week, another sign that the U.S. job market and economy continue their steady recovery from last year’s coronavirus recession.

Unemployment claims fell by 38,000 to 326,000, the first drop in four weeks, the Labor Department said Thursday. Since surpassing 900,000 in early January, the weekly applications, a proxy for layoffs, had fallen more or less steadily all year. Still, they remain elevated from pre-pandemic levels: Before COVID-19 hammered the U.S. economy in March 2020, weekly claims were consistently coming in at around 220,000.

After hitting a pandemic low of 312,000 in early September, claims had risen three straight weeks, suggesting that the highly contagious delta variant was at least temporarily disrupting a recovery in jobs.

The AP acknowledges the labor shortage.

So far this year, employers have been adding 586,000 jobs a month, and this month’s employment report, due Friday, is expected to show they tacked on another 488,000 in September, according to a survey of economists by the data firm FactSet.

Companies are now complaining that they can’t find workers fast enough to fill their job openings, a record 10.9 million in July.

Those concerns, of course, have been sounded for many months.