December 9, 2022
Newest Data. New applications for unemployment insurance—so-called “initial claims”—are a useful indicator of the health of the state’s economy. As the figure below shows, after reaching unprecedented levels during the pandemic, unemployment claims have returned to their typical pre-pandemic levels. Seasonally adjusted weekly UI claims held steady over the last several months at between 40,000 and 50,000 claims per week. This level is in-line with UI claims seen during periods of sustained economic growth. At the same time, though, unadjusted claims have started to climb over the past several weeks. (We apply a “seasonal adjustment” to the weekly claims data because some weeks are predictably higher or lower than others.) Given the challenge of making seasonal adjustments following the pandemic, it remains difficult to draw clear signs from the unadjusted UI claims data. Overall, the latest UI trends seem consistent with reports of strong employment gains statewide, despite steps by the Federal Reserve to bring inflation down.
The second figure shows continued UI claims—that is, the total number of unemployed workers receiving UI at any given time. Typically, initial and continued claims move together closely. If the trend in continued claims differs from the initial claims figures, this deviation could indicate that newly unemployed workers are returning to work faster (generally a sign of an improving labor market) or slower (a potential indication of a softening labor market) than in recent months. Continued claims have stayed flat at about 340,000 over the past few months, consistent with levels seen during the period of economic expansion prior to the pandemic.