Thursday, July 16, 2020

Comments on Weekly Unemployment Claims

by Calculated Risk on 7/16/2020 01:36:00 PM

A few comments:

On a monthly basis, most analysts focus on initial unemployment claims for the BLS reference week of the employment report.  For July, the BLS reference week will be July 12th through the 18th, and initial claims for that week will be released next week, on Thursday, July 23rd.

Note that a couple of states have not released Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims this week, so the number of PUA claims is too low. However, there may also be processing delays that are impacting the numbers.

Note: The seasonal adjustment is likely off this year due to the pandemic. If we look at initial claims Not Seasonally Adjusted (NSA), claims increased sharply this week to 1,503,892 from 1,395,081 the previous week. That could be more representative of what is actually happening.

Continued claims decreased last week to 17,338,000 (SA) from 17,760,000 (SA) the previous week. However, continued claims are down 7.6 million from the peak, suggesting a large number of people have returned to their jobs (as the employment report showed).

The following graph shows regular initial unemployment claims (blue) and PUA claims (red) since early February.

Click on graph for larger image.

This was the 17th consecutive week with extraordinarily high initial claims.

It is possible that we are starting to see some layoffs associated with the end of some early Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) participants.

We should start seeing layoffs associated with the rising COVID cases and hospitalization in some states (like Arizona, California, Florida and Texas).  With bar and restaurant closings in some areas, we will probably see more initial claims in those states this week, and that will show up in the report in the coming weeks.

Note that these states don't have to lockdown to see a decline in economic activity. As Merrill Lynch economists noted: "Most of the slowdown occurred due to voluntary social distancing rather than lockdown policies."