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Economy in Brief

U.S. Weekly Claims For Jobless Insurance Highest Since 1982
by Tom Moeller January 22, 2009

At 589,000 last week, initial claims for unemployment insurance rose another 62,000 to their highest level since late during the sharp recession of 1981-82. During that recession, real GDP fell by 2.9% peak-to-trough. The latest increase in initial claims followed a 57,000 increase during the prior period and it exceeded Consensus expectations for a rise to 548,000.

The latest initial claims figure is for the January survey period for nonfarm payrolls and claims were up 5.9% from the December period. During the last ten years there has been a negative 84% correlation between the level of claims and the month-to-month change in nonfarm payrolls.

The Labor Department indicated that the largest increases in initial claims for the week ending January 10 were in Michigan (+34,639), California (+22,573), Florida (+20,658), North Carolina (+15,637), and Pennsylvania (+13,848), while the largest decreases were in South Carolina (-2,682), Massachusetts (-1,882), New York (-1,852), Iowa (-1,593), and Oregon (-856).

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance during the week of January 10 recovered nearly all of the prior week's decline with a 97,000 increase. That also lifted continuing claims to their highest since late 1982. The four-week average of continuing claims rose 58,800 to 4,559,750. 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 remained stable for the fourth week at this cycle's high of 3.4%, the highest since 1983. The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending January 3 were in Michigan (7.5 percent), Oregon (7.5), Idaho (6.7), Wisconsin (6.7), Pennsylvania (6.6), Indiana (5.7), Kentucky (5.7), North Carolina (5.7), South Carolina (5.6), and Rhode Island (5.5).

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Unemployment Insurance (000s)  01/17/09 01/10/09 01/03/09 Y/Y 2008 2007 2006 
Initial Claims 589 527 470 81.8% 420 321 313
Continuing Claims -- 4,607 4,510 71.8% 3,342 2,552 2,459
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