Unemployment Insurance Claims Dip

Week ending Jan. 22, 2022, saw first drop in initial claims in four weeks

Initial claims for unemployment insurance across the U.S. were 260,000 for the week ending Jan. 22, 2022, on a seasonally adjusted basis. This represented a decrease of 30,000 (10.3%) from the revised figure for the prior week. It also was the first decrease in four weeks and was 1.9% below economists' estimate of 265,000.

The four-week moving average for initial claims rose to 247,000, up by 15,000 (6.5%) from the revised figure for the prior week. In December 2021, initial claims had fallen to 188,000, their lowest level in more than 50 years.

Key Takeaways

  • Initial claims for unemployment insurance in the week ending Jan. 22, 2022, dropped for the first time in four weeks.
  • They also came in slightly below economists' estimate.
  • Continuing claims rose, but the four-week moving average declined.
  • The impact of the omicron variant of COVID-19 may be diminishing.

Diminishing Impact of Omicron

While the negative impact of the omicron variant of COVID-19 appears to be receding, millions of people have missed time from work either because they were ill, feared getting sick in the workplace, or were caring for sick people. Omicron also may have also spurred temporary layoffs. Although the spread of omicron may be slowing down, increases in payrolls may lag, according to Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Continuing Claims Rise, but Moving Average Falls

Unemployment insurance continuing claims also recorded an increase, although compilation of this data lags new claims by one week. For the week ending Jan. 15, 2022, the number of continuing claims, also called the number of insured unemployed persons, was 1,675,000, an increase of 51,000 (3.1%) from the revised number for the prior week, on a seasonally adjusted basis.

However, the four-week moving average for continuing claims fell by 10,750 (0.6%) from the revised figure for the prior week to 1,651,750. Given that the moving average is designed to eliminate random volatility in the weekly figures, this paints a more optimistic picture about the current state of the labor market.

Adjusted vs. Unadjusted Data

The seasonally adjusted nationwide initial claims figure of 260,000 cited above for the week ending Jan. 22, 2022, was derived from an unadjusted figure of 267,573. The unadjusted figure fell by 73,357 (21.5%) from 340,930 in the prior week. However, the normal seasonal factors observed at this time of year should have led to a decrease of just 43,282 (12.7%) from the prior week to 297,648 in the week ending Jan. 22, 2022, all else equal.

Initial Jobless Claims by State

Most states reported declines in new claims, led by 8,060 fewer unadjusted initial claims in Pennsylvania, 5,969 fewer in New York, 4,995 fewer in New Jersey, 4,844 fewer in Texas, 4,490 fewer in Illinois, and 4,057 fewer in Kentucky. The only two increases in unadjusted initial claims were 259 in Alabama and 24 in Alaska. Note that the statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor also include the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, in addition to the 50 states.

However, the U.S. Department of Labor cautions that the breakdown by state for the week ending Jan. 22, 2022, contains what are called advance claims. These advance claims are reported by the state liable for paying the unemployment compensation. However, data for previous weeks classify claimants by state of residence. Thus, the state-by-state figures for the week ending Jan. 22, 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 on Jan. 15, 2022. The largest increases in initial claims for that week, compared to the week before that, were in California (+805), Kentucky (+527), and Puerto Rico (+473), while the largest decreases were in New York (-13,854), Missouri (-7.098), and Washington (-6,016). 

Highest Insured Unemployment Rates

Meanwhile, the highest insured unemployment rates for the week ending Jan. 8, 2022, were in Alaska (3.1%), New Jersey (2.7%), California (2.6%), Minnesota (2.6%), Illinois (2.5%), Rhode Island (2.5%), New York (2.4%), Kentucky (2.3%), Massachusetts (2.3%), Connecticut (2.1%), and Puerto Rico (2.1%). The insured unemployment rate is the ratio of persons receiving unemployment benefits to the total number of persons in the labor force.

Article Sources

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  1. U.S. Department of Labor. "News Release: Unemployment Weekly Claims, Jan. 27, 2022," Pages 1-2. Accessed Jan. 27, 2022.

  2. Yahoo Finance. "US Jobless Claims Trend Down as Omicron Disruptions Begin to Ease." Accessed Jan. 27, 2022.

  3. MarketWatch. "U.S. Jobless Claims Drop 30,000 to 260,000 as Omicron Wave Fades." Accessed Jan. 27, 2022.

  4. U.S. Department of Labor. "News Release: Unemployment Weekly Claims, Jan. 27, 2022," Pages 3-5. Accessed Jan. 27, 2022.

  5. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. "Labor Market Slack and the Insured Unemployment Rate." Accessed Jan. 27, 2022.

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