Economists' Outlook

Housing stats and analysis from NAR's research experts.

Jobless Claims Fell Slightly Last Week; However, People Receiving Unemployment Checks Dropped 7%

Tracking jobless claims by state: week ending October 31

Slightly fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week. In the meantime, the number of people receiving unemployment checks continued to fall for the last 8 weeks, dropping by 7% from the previous week. Some people may have exhausted the regular benefits or some others may have found a job. With a one-week lag, the number of people applying for extended benefits is rising at a slower pace in the last two weeks implying that many people are able to find a job. In addition, based on another important indicator, which shows the bigger trend picture, employment is growing faster than expected. Payroll rose by 638,000 in October with the unemployment rate dropping to 6.9% by 1% from September.

Specifically, the unadjusted new jobless claims totaled 738,166 in the week ending October 31, a decrease of 0.1% from the previous week. In the meantime, continued claims, which measure the number of people receiving unemployment checks, fell once again by nearly 640,000 fewer applicants within a week, to below 7 million. With continued claims declining for the last 8 weeks, the number of people receiving unemployment checks decreased by 6.4 million during this period.

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.

Twenty-eight states reported a decrease in new claims for the week ending October 31. Taking a closer look at the percentage change of the last week’s new claims with the new claims of the previous week, Michigan (-29%) had the largest drop in layoffs followed by Louisiana (-22%) and North Carolina (-21%). In contrast, unadjusted advance claims increased in Kentucky, South Dakota, and Illinois. Particularly, compared to the previous week, initial claims increased by 69% in Kentucky; 68% in South Dakota; 44% in Illinois.

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 9 million people received benefits in the week ending October 17 using the federal government’s PUA program. New York, Hawaii, and Massachusetts had the most people receiving PUA benefits. Specifically, 15% of the labor force in New York received PUA benefits in the week ending October 17 followed by Hawaii (15%) and Massachusetts (13%).

Finally, more people applied for extended benefits last week. After exhausting the 26 weeks of regular benefits that 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 280,000 more people applied a new claim for PEUC in the week ending October 17 compared to the previous week. Texas, Louisiana, and Hawaii were the states with the highest increase of people applying for PEUC within a week. In Texas, the number of new PEUC applicants rose 52% from the previous week. However, fewer people applied for longer-term benefits in New Mexico (-68%), Arkansas (-17%), and Washington (-17%) 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.