Economists' Outlook

Housing stats and analysis from NAR's research experts.

Signs of Slowing Unemployment; More Than Half of States Had Fewer Jobless Claims for Four Weeks in a Row

Tracking Jobless Claims by State: Week Ending May 2

According to today’s release from the Labor Department, there were nearly 23 million total unemployment claims in the week ending April 25. However, 26 million people filed a new unemployment claim in the previous 5 weeks (from March 15th – April 18th). Thus, more than 4 million first filers likely have already found a job. Although millions of people lost their job 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.

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.

More than half of the states had fewer jobless claims for four weeks in a row. While jobless claims surged at unprecedented levels in March due to the Coronavirus outbreak, unemployment is continuously slowing in April in 26 states across the country. California had 20% fewer jobless claims every week in April. This translates to nearly 150,000 fewer people filing for unemployment on average every week in April. Respectively, in Pennsylvania, while about 400,000 people filed an initial claim in the last week of March, there were nearly 100,000 first filers at the end of April. Michigan, Illinois, and Kentucky were some other states experiencing slowing unemployment in April.

For the week ending May 2, forty-five states reported a decrease in new claims. Florida, Alabama, and Georgia were the states with the highest decline in unemployment claims compared to the previous week. The number of new claims dropped by 259,912 in Florida; 46,783 in Alabama; 39,681 in Georgia.

However, unadjusted advance claims increased in Maryland, Oklahoma, and New Jersey. Specifically, the number of advance claims increased by 27,377 claims in Maryland; 15,737 in Oklahoma; and 15,574 in New Jersey. 

Taking a closer look at the percentage change of the last week’s new claims with the new claims of the previous week, Alabama (-62%) had the largest drop in layoffs followed by Florida (-60%) and West Virginia (-56%). In contrast, in Maine, jobless claims increased 111% from the previous week.

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.