New and continued jobless claims: best week of the pandemic; can it survive a new emergency?

New and continued jobless claims: best week of the pandemic; can it survive a new emergency?


This week’s new and continued jobless claims, both seasonally adjusted and unadjusted, declined to new pandemic lows – but at levels roughly equivalent to their worst readings during the Great Recession.

On an unadjusted basis, new jobless claims declined by 20,799 to 723,105. Seasonally adjusted claims declined by 48,000 to 709,000. The 4-week moving average also declined by 33,250 to 755,250. Here is the close up since the end of July (for comparison, remember that these numbers were in the range of 5 to 7 million at their worst in early April):

Unadjusted continuing claims (which lag initial claims typically by a few weeks to several months) declined by 402,298 to 6,486,000. With seasonal adjustment they declined by 436,000 to 6,786,000, both also new pandemic lows:


New jobless claims have declined almost 90% from their March and April pandemic highs! But the seasonally adjusted numbers are still about 50,000 to 100,000 higher than their worst readings of the Great Recession:

Meanwhile, continued claims are about 72.5% below their May pandemic highs:

But these are also 150,000 (adjusted, weekly) and 35,000  (adjusted, 4-week average) higher than their worst levels of the Great Recession.

Directionally this week was very good news, but on an absolute level the level of layoffs continues to be very bad – just nowhere near like it was 7 months ago. This is a part of the slow continued improvement in most of the “weekly indicators” I update each Saturday.

As the pandemic is once again out of control in the majority of the country, and near emergency levels in parts of the upper Midwest and Mountain States, with no signs of new infections abating at this point, I have to think this is going to reverse and reverse badly. But it hasn’t yet.