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Economy in Brief

U.S. Continuing Claims for Unemployment Insurance Reach Another Record High
by Tom Moeller March 26, 2009

Labor market stress continues. Continuing claims for unemployment insurance rose to yet another record high of 5,560,000 and remained nearly double that of last March. The series dates back to 1966. The four-week average of continuing claims also rose to another record of 5,331,250. Continuing claims provide some indication of workers' ability to find employment and they lag the initial claims figures by one week.

At the margin, there appears to be no let-up in the bleak employment picture. Initial claims for unemployment insurance rose to 652,000 which was near the series' recent high. At 652,000 the figure was close to its highest since 1982 and it roughly equaled expectations.

The Labor Department indicated that the largest increases in initial claims for the week ending March 14 were in Tennessee (+1,394), Texas (+1,028), Rhode Island (+904), North Dakota (+857), and Connecticut (+522), while the largest decreases were in California (-8,555), Michigan (-7,523), Indiana (-7,475), Pennsylvania (-3,757), and Ohio (-3,397).

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. It rose to 4.2% 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 unemployment rates in the week ending March 7 were in Michigan (7.8 percent), Oregon (7.6), Idaho (7.2), Wisconsin (6.8), Pennsylvania (6.5), Rhode Island (6.5), Nevada (6.2), Montana (6.0), Indiana (5.9), and Vermont (5.9).

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

Unemployment Insurance (000s)  03/21/09 03/14/09 03/07/09 Y/Y 2008 2007 2006 
Initial Claims 652 644 657 77.7% 420 321 313
Continuing Claims -- 5,560 5,438 96.1% 3,342 2,552 2,459
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