Little Progress on Unemployment Claims but Checks Grind to a Halt


There has been no progress on initial claims as continued claims creep lower.

Initial Claims

For the weeks ending August 29, September 5, September 12, and September 17, and September 26 there were 884,000, 893,000, 870,000, 866,000, and  837,000 seasonally-adjusted claims respectively according to the Department of Labor.

Given margins of error on seasonally adjusted data there has been no progress for five weeks.

Continued Claims

Continued State Unemployment Claims in 2020 October 1  Report

Continued claims lag initial claims by a week.

For the weeks ending August 29, and September 5, September 17, and September 26 there were 13,554,000, 12,747,000, 12,580,000,  11,767,000 seasonally-adjusted claims respectively.

The downward slope (pace of progress) has not changed since May. At the same pace of progress, continued claims will be above 10 million for many months.

It's continued state claims that determine the official unemployment rate, not that anyone of intelligence believes the BLS number.

The reference week for the unemployment report is the week that contains the 13th of the month. That week is the week ending August 15 for the August payroll report. I

For August 15, there were 14,492,000 continued claims. Yet the BLS reported said there were 13,550,000 unemployed in August.

Questioning the Unemployment Rate

Questioning the BLS Unemployment Rate

There should be a minimum of 14,492,000 unemployed plus at least several more million gig and self-employed workers who do not qualify for state unemployment insurance.

The BLS says nope, just 13,550,000.

The continued claims reference week for the September jobs report is the week ending September 19. 

The BLS number to note is 11,767,000. Unemployment claims should be at least that number plus 2-3 million more.

Primary PUA Claims

Primary PUA Claims in 2020  October 1 Report

Primary PUA claims are not seasonally adjusted. They lag initial claims by two weeks and continued claims by a week.

Unlike state claims, PUA claims cover part-time workers.

They also cover truly unemployed workers not eligible for state claims. People in this category include the self-employed, various gig workers, and anyone who exhausted state benefits.

One either applies for state benefits or Federal PUA, not both. Although there is no double-counting, there is overlap from an unemployment rate point of view. Part-time workers are considered employed.

But some number of those 11.828 million workers are genuinely unemployed. I suspect 2-3 million at a minimum. But they never show up in the unemployment numbers.

Heck, not even continued claims show up in the BLS numbers.

All Continued Claims

All Continued Claims in 2020 Oct 1 Report

All Continued Claims, like Primary PUA claims, are not seasonally adjusted. They also lag initial claims by two weeks and continued claims by a week.

The total for the latest week is 26.5million. This should realistically feed the U-6 unemployment rate but it doesn't.

Lost Pandemic Benefits

Pandemic benefits expired on July 25. Everyone in any program received $600 weekly benefits. However, Trump did send out $300 weekly checks. Those expired on September 5.

The average number of All Continued Claims between July 25 and September 5 is 28.29 million.

Lost pandemic benefits between July 25 and September 5 = 28.7 million * $300 per week * 6 weeks = $85.4 billion.

We also have an additional loss $300 per week since September 25. Relative to the April-July 25 $600 stimulus, that is 26 million * $600 * 4 weeks = $62.4 billion.

The total is about $147.8 billion that consumers would have spent but didn't.

Previously I did not account for the $300 weekly benefits and overstated the numbers.

BLS Methodology Change

For the reporting period ending August 29 (release date September 3) the BLS made a methodology change.

As a result of the change, the BLS reported 881,000 initial claims (now revised to 884,000). Under the previous methodology, the BLS would have reported 1,010,000 claims for that week.

The BLS did not back adjust the data and the change is suspect as well. Even if the change is accurate, the seasonal charts all reflect disjointed data.

For further discussion, please see Unemployment Claims Improve But It's a Manipulation Mirage.

Related Posts

  1. Huge Discrepancies Cast Doubt On the Better Than Expected Jobs Report
  2. Jobs Report Much Better Than Expected, But Is It Believable?
  3. Women Lost More Jobs But Have Gained Them Back Faster
  4. The Recovery is Led by Part-Time, Not Full-Time Employment

Either there is massive pandemic claims fraud, massive unemployment undercounting by the BLS, or both.

The above articles, especially #1 and #4 suggest huge undercounting by the BLS, possibly accompanied by massive fraud as well.

I suspect both.


Comments (17)
No. 1-8

Gonna be a lean Christmas for many.


If the country falters, you can blame the austerity faction in the congress. They have been way too slow on round two of COVID relief. yes their is some fraud and misappropriation. With this many people, how could that NOT happen.

No to mention that a large part of round one went mostly to "entities" that probably never needed it in the first place.

Lance Manly
Lance Manly

As you can see from continued growth of Pandemic Emergency UC, the fed program that takes over for 13 weeks once 26 weeks of state benefits have been used, state continued claims are just rolling over into this program. It is a week behind. I would expect a large jump in PEUC continued claims next week. We are 28 weeks from the first week of March.

STATE September 12 September 5 August 29 August 22
US Total 1,828,370 1,631,645 1,527,166 1,422,483


The real unemployment number to look forward to is the end of October. I suspect we will get back above a million easily. Of course more free money from Santa can change it all.


The US economy will continue to flounder until a national strategy is finally developed and implemented to deal with the pandemic. Eight months into a pandemic and still no national strategy; other than hoping it will disappear eventually. Over 200k deaths so far.

Worst President ever.


They will backdate PPU after the election. The 400-600 dollars a week will but paid along with another stimulus check.

5-8k for the average single mom will go a long way towards getting Christmas right. Then of course they will bump that to 1k in February after the government turns blue.

If Christmas fails for retailers(B&M) this year, we won’t have any left. They will all go bankrupt. Christmas is 25% of their sales.


these numbers are proving to be much harder to (cook) manipulate for BLS than GDP or inflation or unemployment,which means they'll just stop releasing the number if it goes back over a million.


Trump in quarantine.

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