Economists' Outlook

Housing stats and analysis from NAR's research experts.

Layoffs Fell Slightly Last Week; More People Benefit from the Recent Extensions of the Special Pandemic Programs

The number of people filing for unemployment benefits fell further last week, but only slightly. With declining COVID-19 cases, layoffs have started to ease. Specifically, unadjusted initial claims fell to 813,145. This is a decrease of 36,534 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 167,609 to nearly 5 million.

However, 2.7 million more people applied to receive benefits from the two special pandemic programs as the December COVID-19 relied bill extended the total weeks of eligibility. Specifically, the number of claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) rose by 1.5 million while the number of claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) increased by 1.2 million. This surge of claims in these two programs was expected since people who exhausted their PUA and PEUC benefits before the extensions were signed can get back on PUA and PEUC for additional weeks.

As COVID-19 vaccine is becoming available to more Americans, the job market is expected to grow faster later this year.

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 February 6. Taking a closer look at the percentage change of the last week’s new claims with the new claims of the previous week, Florida (-75%) had the largest drop in layoffs followed by Kansas (-73%) and Maryland (-54%). In contrast, unadjusted advance claims increased in Ohio, Mississippi and South Carolina. Particularly, compared to the previous week, initial claims increased by 188% in Ohio; 83% in Mississippi; 50% in South Carolina.

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

Among 50 states, nearly 8.7 million people received benefits in the week ending January 23 using the federal government’s PUA program. Pennsylvania, New York and California had the most people receiving PUA benefits. Specifically, 19% of the labor force in Pennsylvania received PUA benefits in the week ending January 23 followed by New York (15%) and California (10%).

Finally, after exhausting the 26 weeks of regular benefits that typically the states 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 4.8 million Americans received PEUC benefits in the week ending January 23. Wyoming, California and Ohio 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 Michigan (-55%), Texas (-39%) and Indiana (-24%) 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.