Economists' Outlook

Housing stats and analysis from NAR's research experts.

Jobless Claims Rose Slightly Last Week After the Recent Massive Winter Storm

Tracking Jobless claims by state: week ending February

Weekly unemployment claims ticked up slightly last week after reaching the lowest level since November during the prior week. Due to February’s massive winter storm that caused multiple blackouts, many people in Texas and other Southern states weren’t able to claim benefits, dropping the number of jobless claims significantly. As power has been restored in a million homes, jobless claims are expected to rise in the following weeks.

Specifically, unadjusted initial claims rose to 748,078. This is an increase of 31,519 claims from the prior week. In the meantime, continued claims, which measure the number of people receiving checks for regular unemployment benefits, dropped by 22,355 to nearly 4.8 million. Employment recovery seems to depend heavily on the pace of business re-openings as the vaccine is becoming more widely available and the new stimulus package is on track.

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-four states reported a decrease in new claims for the week ending February 27. Taking a closer look at the percentage change of the last week’s new claims with the new claims of the previous week, Missouri (-57%) had the largest drop in layoffs followed by Kansas (-34%) and Rhode Island (-32%). In contrast, unadjusted advance claims increased in Arkansas, West Virginia and Mississippi. Particularly, compared to the previous week, initial claims increased by 199% in Arkansas; 171% in West Virginia; 83% in Mississippi.

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 7.3 million people received benefits in the week ending February 13 using the federal government’s PUA program. New York, Ohio and Michigan had the most people receiving PUA benefits. Specifically, 14% of the labor force in New York received PUA benefits in the week ending February 13 followed by Ohio (13%) and Michigan (10%).

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 24 additional weeks) with the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). Nearly 4.5 million Americans received PEUC benefits in the week ending February 13. Kansas, Iowa and Michigan were the states with the highest increase of people receiving PEUC benefits compared to the previous week. However, fewer people applied for longer-term benefits in California (-46%), New Jersey (-29%) and Arkansas (-29%) 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.