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 23, 2021

Fewer Americans filed a new unemployment claim last week. Specifically, the number of unadjusted initial claims fell to 873,966. This is a decrease of 101,498 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 274,055 to nearly 5.2 million. However, 1.6 million more people received benefits from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program in the week ending January 9. The PUA is a federal program that helps unemployed who are not usually eligible for regular unemployment benefits such as business owners, self-employed workers, independent contractors, and those with a limited work history who are out of business. This jump in PUA was expected since the December COVID-19 relief bill extended the total weeks of PUA eligibility by 11, from 39 to 50, weeks. Thus, those people who exhausted their PUA benefits before the extensions were signed can get back on PUA for 11 additional weeks.

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 23. Taking a closer look at the percentage change of the last week's new claims with the new claims of the previous week, California (-55%) had the largest drop in layoffs followed by Arkansas (-52%) and Tennessee (-38%). In contrast, unadjusted advance claims increased in Arizona, Florida and District of Columbia. Particularly, compared to the previous week, initial claims increased by 51% in Arizona; 47% in Florida; 39% in the District of Columbia.

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

Among 50 states, nearly 7.3 million people received benefits in the week ending January 9 using the federal government's PUA program. As noted above, the extension of PUA eligibility by 11 weeks rose the number of people receiving PUA benefits by 1.6 million within a week. Hawaii, Massachusetts and New York had the most people receiving PUA benefits. Specifically, 17% of the labor force in Hawaii received PUA benefits in the week ending January 9 followed by Massachusetts (14%) and New York (14%).

Finally, after exhausting the 26 weeks of regular benefits that typically the states provide to their residents, people were able to apply for longer term unemployment benefits (up to 13 additional weeks) with the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). However, the COVID-19 relief bill also increased the number of weeks of PEUC eligibility by 11 weeks from 13 to 24 weeks. Thus, more people are expected to receive PEUC benefits in the following weeks. Nearly 3.9 million Americans received PEUC benefits in the week ending January 9. New Mexico, California and Virginia were the states with the highest increase of people receiving PEUC benefits compared to the previous week. In Kansas, the number of PEUC applicants was nearly 4 times higher from the previous week. However, fewer people applied for longer-term benefits in Colorado (-100%), Wyoming (-82%) and Indiana (-52%) 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.