Economists' Outlook

Housing stats and analysis from NAR's research experts.

Fewer Americans Applied for Jobless Aid Last Week

Tracking jobless claims by state: week ending January 16

Fewer Americans filed a new unemployment claim last week. In fact, the number of unadjusted initial claims fell to 960,668. This is a decrease of 151,303 claims from the prior week. In the meantime, continued claims, which measure the number of people receiving checks for regular unemployment benefits, also dropped by 203,750 to nearly 5.6 million as people exhaust their regular benefits and roll into the other unemployment insurance programs.

While the proposed stimulus package includes additional financial aid for small businesses, expect jobless claims to continue moving downwards in the following weeks. The proposal also includes a plan to partner with restaurants to feed families in the U.S. and keep workers employed through the FEMA Empowering Essential Deliveries Act. This program would work with restaurants to provide food to families and help bring laid-off restaurant workers back on the job.

The National Association of REALTORS® closely monitors the weekly claims for unemployment insurance provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since this data is also released for each state, we track the jobless claims activity at the state level. This state-level data report is a very important indicator to watch at economic turning points because it provides detail on what’s happening week by week, rather than each month or quarter.

Forty states reported a decrease in new claims for the week ending January 16. Taking a closer look at the percentage change of the last week’s new claims with the claims of the previous week, Nebraska (-47%) had the largest drop in layoffs followed by New Mexico (-45%) and Arkansas (-36%). In contrast, unadjusted advance claims increased in Arizona, Rhode Island, and Alaska. Particularly, compared to the previous week, initial claims increased by 125% in Arizona; 36% in Rhode Island; 32% in Alaska.

Here are the top 10 states with the highest increase/decline in jobless claims compared to the previous week:

Moreover, the current release provides information about people filing new and total Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Specifically, the PUA is for the self-employed and others who do not qualify for the regular state unemployment programs. Among 50 states, nearly 5.7 million people received benefits in the week ending January 2 using the federal government’s PUA program. New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island had the most people receiving PUA benefits. Specifically, 14% of the labor force in New York received PUA benefits in the week ending January 2 followed by New Jersey (8%) and Rhode Island (8%).

Finally, after exhausting the 26 weeks of regular benefits that the states typically provide to their residents, people are able to apply for longer-term unemployment benefits (up to 13 additional weeks) with the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). Nearly 3 million Americans applied a new claim for PEUC in the week ending January 2. Kansas, New Mexico, and Wyoming were the states with the highest decline of people applying for PEUC within a week. In Kansas, the number of new PEUC applicants dropped 92% compared to a week earlier. However, more people applied for longer-term benefits in Alabama (-202%), Mississippi (-75%), and Texas (-60%) during the same period.

The map below shows you the percentage change of layoffs for each state. Click on a state to see how many layoffs occurred every week within the last year.