Economists' Outlook

Housing stats and analysis from NAR's research experts.

Raw Count of New Jobless Claims Rose Last Week

Tracking jobless claims by state: Week ending January 2, 2021

The number of Americans applying for new jobless claims dropped slightly last week by 3,000 to 787,000. This figure is seasonally adjusted and is typically reported in the news. Nearly all economic data – from GDP and employment to consumer price inflation – are seasonally adjusted to account for regular events we can anticipate that have an effect on data around the same time each year.  

However, on an unadjusted basis, new jobless claims rose by 77,400 to 922,072 last week. In the meantime, continued claims, which measure the number of people receiving checks for regular unemployment benefits, also rose to nearly 5.4 million. This increase was expected as there was uncertainty about the extension of unemployment benefits and the resurgence of COVID cases. According to another important indicator, payroll employment in December declined by 140,000 while the unemployment rate was unchanged.

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.

Twelve states reported a decrease in new claims for the week ending January 2. Taking a closer look at the percentage change of the last week’s new claims with the new claims of the previous week, Illinois (-57%) had the largest drop in layoffs followed by Maryland (-22%) and Alaska (-20%). In contrast, unadjusted advance claims increased in Louisiana, South Carolina, and Virginia. Particularly compared to the previous week, initial claims increased by 173% in Louisiana; 116% in South Carolina; 112% in Virginia.

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 8.4 million people received benefits in the week ending December 19 using the federal government’s PUA program. New York, Massachusetts, and Hawaii had the most people receiving PUA benefits. Specifically, 13% of the labor force in New York received PUA benefits in the week ending December 19 followed by Massachusetts (11%) and Hawaii (11%).

Finally, more people applied for extended benefits last week. 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 13 additional weeks) with the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). Nearly 293,400 fewer Americans applied a new claim for PEUC in the week ending December 19 compared to the previous week. South Carolina, Kentucky, and Maryland were the states with the highest increase of people applying for PEUC within a week. In South Carolina, the number of new PEUC applicants rose 50% compared to a week earlier. However, fewer people applied for longer-term benefits in North Dakota (-21%), South Dakota (-21%), and Wisconsin (-16%) 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.