New Unemployment Claims Lowest Since December 2021

Continuing claims in week ending March 12, 2022, remain at 52-year lows

Initial claims for unemployment insurance across the U.S. were 214,000 for the week ending March 12, 2022, on a seasonally adjusted basis. This represented a drop of 15,000 (6.6%) from the revised figure for the prior week. The four-week moving average for initial claims was 223,000, down by 8,750 (3.8%) from the revised figure for the prior week.

The drop to 214,000 represented the sixth week-to-week decline in the last eight weeks and the lowest figure since 188,000 was recorded in December 2021. It also was 2.7% below the estimate of 220,000 per economists polled by The Wall Street Journal.

Key Takeaways

  • Initial claims for unemployment insurance in the week ending March 12, 2022, fell by 6.6% from the prior week.
  • This also was 2.7% lower than economists' estimates.
  • The continuing claims were down, reaching their lowest level since February and March 1970.

Strong Jobs Market

As in recent weeks, the jobs market remains strong, with job openings at record highs and layoffs at record lows. In a recent note to clients, money market economist Thomas Simons of Jefferies wrote: "Demand for labor is strong and there are no reasons to believe that this will change any time soon, barring another wave of a new COVID variant. We expect that both initial and continuing claims will be biased toward heading lower in the weeks ahead."

Continuing Claims Decline

Unemployment insurance continuing claims fell, although compilation of this data lags new claims by one week. For the week ending March 5, 2022, the number of continuing claims, also called the number of insured unemployed persons, was 1,419,000, a decrease of 71,000 (4.8%) from the revised number for the prior week, on a seasonally adjusted basis. This was the lowest level for insured unemployment since Feb. 21, 1970, when it was 1,412,000.

The four-week moving average for continuing claims fell by 42,500 (2.8%) from the revised figure for the prior week to 1,463,000. This is the lowest level for this average since March 21, 1970, when it was 1,456,750. The previous week's moving average had been revised downward by 1,000 (0.07%), from 1,506,500 to 1,505,500.

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, continuing claims as a percentage of the civilian labor force have dropped by about half since that time.

Adjusted vs. Unadjusted Data

The seasonally adjusted nationwide initial claims figure of 214,000 cited above for the week ending March 12, 2022, was derived from an unadjusted figure of 202,894. The unadjusted figure fell by 16,981 (7.7%) from 219,875 in the prior week. However, the normal seasonal factors observed at this time of year should have led to a decrease of only 1,486 (0.7%) from the prior week to 218,389 in the week ending March 12, 2022, all else equal. During the comparable week in 2021, there were 757,202 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, 38 reported declines in new claims for the week ending March 12, 2022, while 15 reported increases. As indicated above, total unadjusted claims fell by 16,981 for this week.

The biggest declines in unadjusted new claims were in New York (-16,006), New Jersey (-1,181), Massachusetts (-1,144), and the District of Columbia (-1,011). The largest increases were in Michigan (+2,111), California (+1,995), and Ohio (+1,464).

The U.S. Department of Labor cautions that the breakdown by state for the week ending March 12, 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 12, 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 March 5, 2022. The largest increases in initial claims for that week, compared to the week before that, were in New York (+16,157), California (+5,470), Kentucky (+3,148), New Jersey (+2,381), and Ohio (+1,117). The largest decreases were in Massachusetts (-2,315), Pennsylvania (-2,130), Missouri (-1,378), Tennessee (-1,356), and Rhode Island (-1,224).

Highest Insured Unemployment Rates

Meanwhile, the highest insured unemployment rates for the week ending Feb. 26, 2022, were in Rhode Island (2.7%), California (2.6%), Alaska (2.4%), New Jersey (2.4%), Massachusetts (2.3%), Minnesota (2.3%), New York (2.3%), Illinois (2.1%), Connecticut (2.0%), Georgia (1.9%), and Montana (1.9%).

The advance seasonally adjusted national figure for the week ending March 5, 2022, was 1.0%, a slight drop of 0.1 percentage point 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. 26, 2022, extended unemployment benefits were available in New Jersey.

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 17, 2022," Pages 1-2.

  2. MarketWatch. "U.S. Unemployment Claims Drop to 2-1/2 Month Low of 214,000 as Hiring Revs Up."

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

  4. U.S. Department of Labor. "News Release: Unemployment Weekly Claims, March 17, 2022," Pages 3-5.

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

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