New Unemployment Claims Up 5.1% to Begin March 2022

But continuing claims are at lowest level since March 1970

Initial claims for unemployment insurance across the U.S. were 227,000 for the week ending March 5, 2022, on a seasonally adjusted basis. This represented an increase of 11,000 (5.1%) from the revised figure for the prior week. This came after five declines in the prior six weeks. It also was 5.1% above the estimate of 216,000 (equal to the revised actual figure for the prior week), per economists polled by The Wall Street Journal.

The four-week moving average for initial claims was 231,250, up by 500 (0.2%) from the revised figure for the prior week. In December 2021, initial claims had fallen to 188,000.

Key Takeaways

  • Initial claims for unemployment insurance in the week ending March 5, 2022, rose by 5.1% from the prior week.
  • This also was 5.1% higher than economists' estimates.
  • The four-week moving average for continuing claims was down by 2.0%, reaching its lowest level since March 28, 1970.

Record Low Layoffs, Record High Job Openings

Employers have more than 11 million unfilled job openings, or about two for every unemployed worker, but they are struggling to fill many of them. Most are offering higher pay and benefits to attract new employees. Also, the increase in new claims during the week ending March 5, 2022, was entirely driven by California and New York (details below).

The strong demand for labor also reflects strong demand for goods and services, suggesting that the U.S. economic recovery is still strong. However, the war in Ukraine and high inflation, itself partly fueled by rising oil prices due to the war, may dampen economic growth. So does the likelihood that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates to combat inflation.

Continuing Claims: Up for Week, but Moving Average Falls

Unemployment insurance continuing claims fell, although compilation of this data lags new claims by one week. For the week ending Feb. 26, 2022, the number of continuing claims, also called the number of insured unemployed persons, was 1,494,000, an increase of 25,000 (1.7%) from the revised number for the prior week, on a seasonally adjusted basis.

The four-week moving average for continuing claims fell by 31,250 (2.0%) from the revised figure for the prior week to 1,506,500. This is the lowest level for this average since March 28, 1970, when it was 1,483,500. The previous week's moving average had been revised downward by 1,750 (0.02%), from 1,539,500 to 1,537,750.

Putting this continuing claims figure in historical perspective, the U.S. civilian labor force has grown from 82.5 million in March 1970 to 167.0 million in February 2022, an increase of 102.4%. As a result, the four-week moving average for continuing claims has dropped by half over the past 52 years, from 1.8% of the civilian labor force to 0.9%.

Adjusted vs. Unadjusted Data

The seasonally adjusted nationwide initial claims figure of 227,000 cited above for the week ending March 5, 2022, was derived from an unadjusted figure of 218,072. The unadjusted figure rose by 22,025 (11.2%) from 196,047 in the prior week. However, the normal seasonal factors observed at this time of year should have led to an increase of 10,954 (5.6%) from the prior week to 207,001 in the week ending March 5, 2022, all else equal. During the comparable week in 2021, there were 722,180 initial claims.

Initial Jobless Claims by State

Note that the statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor also include the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, in addition to the 50 states. Of these, 27 reported declines in new claims for the week ending March 5, 2022, while 26 reported increases. As indicated above, total unadjusted claims rose by 22,025 for this week.

The biggest declines in unadjusted new claims were in Massachusetts (-2,381), Pennsylvania (-2,185), Tennessee (-1,417), and Rhode Island (-1,229). The largest increases were in New York (+16,255), California (+6,233), Kentucky (+3,134), and New Jersey (+1,954).

The U.S. Department of Labor cautions that the breakdown by state for the week ending March 5, 2022, contains what are called advance claims. These advance claims are reported by the state liable for paying the unemployment compensation. Data for previous weeks classify claimants by state of residence. Thus, the state-by-state figures for the week ending March 5, 2022, and the prior week are not completely comparable.

For comparable figures, the Department of Labor instead looks at the data for a week earlier, which ended Feb. 26, 2022. The largest increases in initial claims for that week, compared to the week before that, were in Massachusetts (+3,201), Rhode Island (+1,040), the District of Columbia (+995), Nevada (+689), and Kansas (+587). The largest decreases were in Michigan (-9,161), California (-5,412), Florida (-2,182), Ohio (-2,098), and Illinois (-1,777).

Highest Insured Unemployment Rates

Meanwhile, the highest insured unemployment rates for the week ending Feb. 19, 2022, were in Alaska (2.4%), California (2.4%), Illinois (2.4%), New Jersey (2.4%), Rhode Island (2.4%), Minnesota (2.3%), Massachusetts (2.2%), New York (2.2%), Michigan (1.8%), Montana (1.8%), and Pennsylvania (1.8%).

The advance seasonally adjusted national figure for the week ending Feb. 26, 2022, was 1.1%, unchanged from the unrevised figure for the prior week. The insured unemployment rate is the ratio of persons receiving unemployment benefits to the total number of persons in the labor force.

During the week ending Feb. 19, 2022, extended unemployment benefits were available in New Jersey and New Mexico.

Article Sources

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. U.S. Department of Labor. "News Release: Unemployment Weekly Claims, March 10, 2022," Pages 1-2.

  2. MarketWatch. "U.S. Unemployment Claims Climb 11,000 to 227,000 After Big Increases in New York and California."

  3. MarketWatch. "U.S. Unemployment Claims Drop 23,000 to 238,000 as Omicron Wave Relents."

  4. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. "Civilian Labor Force Level."

  5. U.S. Department of Labor. "News Release: Unemployment Weekly Claims, March 10, 2022," Pages 3-5.

  6. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. "Labor Market Slack and the Insured Unemployment Rate."

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