Economists' Outlook

Housing stats and analysis from NAR's research experts.

Tracking Jobless Claims: Week Ending March 13

Jobless claims a year into the pandemic

A year after the pandemic hit our country, jobless claims remain elevated near 800,000. Although claims are significantly lower than the beginning of the pandemic, nearly 3 times as many people applied to receive unemployment benefits last week compared to pre-pandemic. However, that’s not the case for every state. It’s worth noting that fewer people currently apply to receive unemployment benefits in Kansas and New Jersey. Specifically, the number of initial claims in Kansas was 1,240 last week compared to 1,732 pre-pandemic.1 Respectively, nearly 700 fewer people applied for unemployment benefits in New Jersey last week compared to pre-pandemic. Nevertheless, jobless claims are still elevated in Ohio, Virginia, Illinois, Indiana and Alabama. As the COVID-19 vaccine is becoming more widely available across the country and the new stimulus is on the way, more businesses are expected to return to full capacity, boosting employment growth.

Tracking Jobless claims by state: week ending March 13

The number of Americans applying for new jobless claims rose by 24,318 last week to 746,496.2 However, continued claims, which measure the number of people receiving checks for regular unemployment benefits, dropped by 95,541 to nearly 4.5 million.

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 states reported a decrease in new claims for the week ending March 13. Taking a closer look at the percentage change of the last week’s new claims with the new claims of the previous week, Kansas (-52%) had the largest drop in layoffs followed by South Carolina (-50%) and West Virginia (-48%). While most states reported improvements in layoffs, several populous states posted increases. Unadjusted new claims rose in Indiana, Virginia and Texas. Particularly, compared to the previous week, initial claims increased by 95% in Indiana; 74% in Virginia; 43% in Texas.

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). The PUA is for the self-employed and others who do not qualify for the regular state unemployment programs. Among 50 states, nearly 7.6 million people received benefits in the week ending February 27 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 27 followed by Ohio (12%) and Michigan (11%).

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 February 27. Kansas, Michigan and Wisconsin 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 Iowa (-46%), California (-44%) and Hawaii (-41%) 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.

1 Average number of unadjusted initial claims during Jan 2019-Feb 2020

2 Unadjusted initial claims