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Economy in Brief

U.S. Weekly Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance Up
by Tom Moeller February 28, 2008

Initial claims for unemployment insurance rose a sharp 1,900 to 373,000 last week. During February claims have averaged 361,000, up 10.4% from the January average. The latest weekly level remained near the highest since October of 2005.

The four-week moving average of initial claims, a measure which smoothes out most of the series' w/w volatility, dipped slightly to 360,500 (+7.6% y/y).

A claims level below 400,000 typically has been associated with growth in nonfarm payrolls. During the last ten years there has been a (negative) 76% correlation between the level of initial claims and the m/m change in nonfarm payroll employment.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance again rose sharply by 21,000 after a 49,000 increase during the prior week that was revised marginally higher. Insured unemployment stood at its highest level since Summer 2005. The figure provides some indication of workers' ability to find employment.

The continuing claims numbers lag the initial claims figures by one week.

The insured rate of unemployment remained at 2.1% for the fourth consecutive week.

Unemployment Insurance (000s)  02/23/08 02/16/08 Y/Y 2006  2005 2004
Initial Claims  373 354 10.7% 313 331 343
Continuing Claims -- 2,807 7.0% 2,459 2,662 2,924
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