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Economy in Brief

U.S. Jobless Insurance Claims Remained Elevated
by Tom Moeller November 6, 2008

The job market remains weak.That's the message from the figures covering initial claims for jobless insurance. Last week, they held roughly steady at 481,000 with an upwardly revised reading of 485,000 during the prior week. Expectations had been for 476,000 claims. The latest figures were down slightly from the cycle's high, which was boosted after Hurricane Ike, but they were up by half from the year ago level. The four-week moving average of initial claims fell slightly to 477,000 (43.8% y/y).

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending October 25 were in Pennsylvania (+5,579), California (+4,617), Illinois (+4,314), Ohio (+3,949), and North Carolina (+3,179), while the largest decreases were in Texas (-5,898), Tennessee (-2,078), Kansas (-1,067), Arkansas (-1,003), and Florida (-661).

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance during the week of October 25 rose a sharp 122,000 after the prior week's 6,000 decline. The four-week average of continuing claims rose to 3,754,000 it is this cycle's high and the highest (just barely) since 1983. Continuing claims provide some indication of workers' ability to find employment and they lag the initial claims figures by one week.

The insured rate of unemployment was stable for the third week at 2.8%, this cycle's high and the highest since mid-2003. The peak rate in that recessionary period was 3.0% reached in late June 2003. The Commerce Department indicated that the highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending October 18 were in Oregon (3.6 percent), the Virgin Islands (3.6), Michigan (3.5), Nevada (3.5), California (3.4), Puerto Rico (3.4), South Carolina (3.3), Arkansas (3.2), New Jersey (3.2), and Pennsylvania (3.2).

Understanding inflation and the implications for monetary policy: a Phillips curve retrospective from the Federal Reserve Bank of New England is available here.

Unemployment Insurance (000s)  11/01/08 10/25/08 10/18/08 Y/Y 2007 2006  2005
Initial Claims 481  485 479 48.5% 322 313 331
Continuing Claims -- 3,843 3,721 48.4 2,552 2,459 2,662
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