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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Claims For Unemployment Insurance Slipped From Recent High
by Tom Moeller February 12, 2009

U.S. labor market conditions continued dismal as the Labor Department indicated that initial claims for unemployment insurance slipped just 8,000 to 623,000 after an upwardly revised 40,000 increase during the prior week. The latest level again surpassed Consensus expectations for 610,000 initial claims. Initial claims continue to be the highest since late during the sharp recession of 1981-82. During that recession, real GDP fell by 2.9% peak-to-trough.

The Labor Department indicated that the largest increases in initial claims for the week ending January 31 were in California (+20,001), North Carolina (+8,663), Ohio (+4,738), Georgia (+4,392), and Kansas (+3,232), while the largest decreases were in Virginia (-1,937), New Jersey (-1,551), Missouri (-1,370), Oklahoma (-1,199), and Connecticut (-1,000).

Labor market stress was further indicated by an increase to 4,810,000 continuing claims for unemployment insurance. The latest was another record. The series dates back to 1966. The four-week average of continuing claims rose 73,800 to 4,745,250. Continuing claims provide some indication of workers' ability to find employment and they lag the initial claims figures by one week.

Though the latest level of continuing claims was a record, the labor force has grown as well. Therefore, the insured rate of unemployment was not at a new high. It remained stable at 3.6% which was, however, the highest since 1983. The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending January 24 were Michigan (7.4 percent), Oregon (6.9), Idaho (6.8), Wisconsin (6.1), Pennsylvania (5.9), Nevada (5.7), Montana (5.6), Indiana (5.5), Alaska (5.4), New Jersey (5.4), and Rhode Island (5.4).

Unemployment Insurance (000s)  02/06/09 01/31/09 01/17/09 Y/Y 2008 2007 2006 
Initial Claims 623 631 591 83.8% 420 321 313
Continuing Claims -- 4,810 4,799 78.5% 3,342 2,552 2,459
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