Economists' Outlook

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Fewer People Receiving Unemployment Benefits; Nearly 4 Million Less Than the Previous Week

Tracking Jobless Claims by State: Week Ending May 23

Nearly 21 million people received unemployment benefits in the week ending May 161; a decrease of 3.8 million from the previous week’s revised levels. That was actually the first time in 10 weeks that the number of people receiving unemployment benefits dropped. Although millions of people lost their jobs due to the growing spread of the coronavirus, a surge of companies are hiring additional employees to accommodate increased demands. Most of these companies are included in the following industries: health care, food and grocery stores, delivery and telecommunications. At the same time, millions of small businesses were able to benefit from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and rehire their furloughed employees.

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.

Thirty-eight states reported a decrease in new claims for the week ending May 23. Actually, in 23 of these states, new claims have declined for four weeks in a row. Washington, Florida and California were the states with the highest decline in unemployment claims compared to previous week. The number of new claims dropped by 86,839 in Washington; 51,673 in Florida; 32,088 in California.

However, unadjusted advance claims increased in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. Specifically, the number of advance claims increased by 13,892 claims in Virginia; 6,892 in Pennsylvania; and 6,417 in Kentucky.

Taking a closer look at the percentage change of the last week’s new claims with the new claims of the previous week, Washington (-62%) had the largest drop in layoffs followed by Connecticut (-36%) and Vermont (-33%). In contrast, in Virginia, layoffs increased 31% from the previous week.

Moreover, the current release provides information about people filing new and total Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). At state level, Michigan, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania had the most people receiving PUA benefits. Specifically, compared to local labor force, 36% of the labor force in Michigan received PUA benefits in the week ending May 9 followed by Massachusetts (35%) and Pennsylvania (11%).

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.


Continued claims are released with one-week lag.

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