Federal Worker Unemployment Claims Surge

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist


  • The number of federal workers applying for unemployment insurance SURGED by 3,831 in the week ended December 29, the first full week of the partial government shutdown to 4,760.
  • There were 216,000 1st time claims for unemployment insurance for the week ended January 5, a DECREASE of 17.000 from the prior week’s upwardly revised report (231,000 to 233,000)
  • The four-week moving average of first time claims ROSE 2,500 to 221,750;
  • Four week moving average represented 0.141 percent of employment, UP from 0.140 the previous week.
  • The number of continued claims – individuals who had been collecting unemployment insurance — reported on a one-week lag, was 1,722,000 for the week ended December 29, DOWN 28,000 from the previous week’s upwardly REVISED 1,750,000 (from 1,740,000);
  • The four-week moving average of continued claims INCREASED 15,250 to 1,721,250.


  • The week-week increase in unemployment insurance claims by federal workers represented an increase of more than 300 percent
  • The four-week moving average of continued claims fell week-week for the first time in the since the beginning of November.
  • The week-week decline in first time claims for unemployment insurance was the first in four weeks.

Data Source: Department of Labor

Image result for unemployment insurance claims

The first statistical evidence of the impact of the partial government shutdown – claims for unemployment insurance – showed a sharp increase – more than 300 percent.

Federal workers are not covered by the same program as private sector workers and the number of claims is reported on a longer lag. During the week claims by federal workers increased, the number of private sector claims rose 12,000.

In the broader labor market, the drop in claims represented a positive change from the first week of 2018 when initial claims rose 11,000 to 261,000.

After the first week of the October 2013 government shutdown, initial claims by federal workers rose 70,000, but that shutdown was broader. This year’s shutdown involved full workweeks (with no holidays).

The decline in the overall number of jobless claims suggests the shutdown has yet to reach private sector contractors who could be receiving payments under previously approved programs. Contractors also may not have laid off employees in anticipation of a brief government closure.

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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