1st-time Unemployment Insurance Claims Fall Back to Year-End Levels

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist


  • There were 234,000 1st time claims for unemployment insurance for the week ended February 2, a DECREASE of 19.000 from the prior week’s unrevised report;
  • The four-week moving average of first time claims ROSE 4,500 to 224,750;
  • Four week moving average represented 0.143 percent of employment, UP from 0.141 the previous week.
  • The number of continued claims – individuals who had been collecting unemployment insurance — reported on a one-week lag, was 1,736,000 for the week ended January 26, DOWN 42,000 from the previous week’s downwardly REVISED 1,778,000 (from 1,782,000);
  • The four-week moving average of continued claims DECREASED 4,250 to 1,741,250.


  • The report showed a sharp drop in the number of federal workers claiming unemployment insurance: 6,669 for the week ended January 29 from 14,739 one week earlier;
  • First-time claims for unemployment insurance have declined in four of the first five weeks of this year, essentially returning to the level at the end of 2018 despite last week’ surge of 53,000 more new claims than the prior week;
  • First-time unemployment claims remain uncomfortably high as a percentage of total employment (in relative terms). At 0.143 percent they are up from year-end 2018 but down from 2018.

Data Source: Department of Labor

Image result for unemployment insurance claims

The key first-time claims for unemployment insurance data began to return to normal for the week ended February 2 though still reflecting the impact of the partial government shutdown on consultants and others employed by the federal government as part of outsourcing.

The number were complicated too by post-holiday layoffs as retailers and hoteliers scaled back. California was especially hard-hit with a jump of service sector layoffs.

While dated somewhat, the number of federal workers submitting claims dropped sharply in data reflecting the first week after the partial shutdown ended.

Even as the unemployment claims data return to “normal,” the impact of the partial shutdown and concerns of another as early as next week continue to plague the economy.

You can hear Mark Lieberman tomorrow (Friday, December 7) at 8:45 am on the Morning Briefing on P.O.T.U.S. radio @sxmpotus, Sirius-XM 124.

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