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Aug 30 -- The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) invites public comment to OMB by September 29, 2022 regarding Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims and Extended Benefits Data.

The Federal-State Extended Unemployment Compensation Act of 1970 section 203, as amended provides for extended benefits to be paid to claimants exhausting regular benefits in a state if that state is experiencing high unemployment as measured by a thirteen-week moving average of the insured unemployment rate.  The ETA 539 report is the vehicle states use to report weekly insured unemployment and other information necessary to calculate the trigger rate.  The head of the state agency shall notify the Secretary of Labor that a state is triggering "on" or "off" extended benefits.  The Secretary shall then publish such notice in the Federal Register.

In addition, DOL publishes the number of initial claims for unemployment insurance and the number of continued weeks claimed for unemployment insurance.  These two pieces of data are important economic indicators.  Initial claims are a leading economic indicator and continued weeks claimed are a concurrent indicator.  These data are used by other government agencies such as the Federal Reserve Board, the Council of Economic Advisors, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Department of Commerce as well as economists in the private sector.  The data may also provide insight on state agency workload requirements and can be used in budget forecasting.

While only two of several labor market indicators, these claims take on added importance because they are weekly and because they are available so soon after the period of reference.

The ETA 538 report permits DOL to report data five days after the week of reference.  This data is released as an "advance" figure to the ETA 539 economic data. The ETA 539 is not as timely but it gives figures that are slightly more accurate nationally and provides State data reflecting claimants by state of residence, which the ETA 538 does not.
 
The data are used by the Office of Unemployment Insurance to assure that the states perform Extended Benefits (EB) trigger calculations correctly and to monitor patterns of data to assure proper reporting.  The Secretary of Labor may then certify that a state has begun or ended an extended benefit period.  If this data were not collected, DOL would have to take the word of the states that data were correct at the time of certification with no way to check it.  If data were not monitored, states could change trigger status when they should not, causing benefits to be paid when they should not and vice versa.

As indicated above, both initial and continued weeks are used by various agencies of the government to show the labor market conditions.  These data are used as a predictor of the economy of the nation in general.  If data were not collected on these weekly reports, then the only source would be a monthly report on which data is not available until about twenty days after the month of reference.  This would not be timely enough to be predictive and there would be fewer data points to indicate trend.

The ETA 538 gives an advance figure quickly for publication of the key economic data while the ETA 539 gives a more refined economic picture of the US and state activity, as well as providing, as its main purpose, data on the EB trigger mechanism.

UI Data Dashboard: https://oui.doleta.gov/unemploy/DataDashboard.asp
UI Weekly Claims submission to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202208-1205-006 Click IC List for survey instrument, View Supporting Statement for technical documentation. Submit comments through this site.
FR notice inviting comment: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2022-18613
 
For AEA members wishing to submit comments to OMB, the AEA Committee on Economic Statistics offers "A Primer on How to Respond to Calls for Comment on Federal Data Collections" at https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=5806

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