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Economy in Brief

U.S. Claims For Jobless Insurance Reach Another Record High
by Tom Moeller March 12, 2009

The U.S. job market continues to worsen. Continuing claims for unemployment insurance reached another record level as they jumped by 193,000. At 5,317,000, the level of continuing claims was nearly double that of last March. The series dates back to 1966. The four-week average of continuing claims jumped 124,300 to 5,139,750. That was the third largest move upward on record. Continuing claims provide some indication of workers' ability to find employment and they lag the initial claims figures by one week.

The picture of labor market weakness was reinforced by a 9,000 increase in initial claims for unemployment insurance to 654,000. That increase followed a 25,000 decline during the prior week which was less than reported initially. The latest reading compared to Consensus expectations for 640,000 initial claims.

Initial claims in the week ending February 28 rose in New York (+16,481), California (+7,765), Oregon (+4,001), Georgia (+3,313), and Wisconsin (+3,006), while the largest decreases were in Missouri (-3,350), Massachusetts (-3,263), New Jersey (-1,973), Florida (-1,559), and New Mexico (-1,005).

Though the latest level of continuing claims was a record, the labor force has grown as well, by nearly 30% over the last twenty years. Therefore, the insured rate of unemployment is not at a record high. Nevertheless it rose to 4.0% which was the highest since June of 1983. During the last ten years there has been a 93% correlation between the level of the insured unemployment rate and the overall rate of unemployment published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The highest insured rates of unemployment in the week ending February 21 were in Michigan (7.7 percent), Oregon (7.4), Idaho (7.2), Wisconsin (6.7), Rhode Island (6.5), Pennsylvania (6.3), Nevada (6.2), Montana (5.9), Alaska (5.7), Indiana (5.7), Massachusetts (5.7), New Jersey (5.7), and Vermont (5.7).

The unemployment insurance claim data is available in Haver's WEEKLY database.

Comments on the Current Financial Crisis (an Abridged Version) from Dallas Fed President Richard W. Fisher can be found here.

Unemployment Insurance (000s)  03/07/09 02/28/09 02/21/09 Y/Y 2008 2007 2006 
Initial Claims 654 645 670 88.5% 420 321 313
Continuing Claims -- 5,317 5,124 90.3% 3,342 2,552 2,459
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