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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Claims for Jobless Insurance Back Off From High; Continuing Claims Double Last Year's LevelĀ 
by Tom Moeller April 9, 2009

Though they may be topping, initial claims for unemployment insurance certainly remain high. At 654,000 last week that was down from an upwardly revised 675,000 during the prior week. However, the level was up 82.7% from one year ago. Consensus expectations for 660,000 claims.

The Labor Department indicated that the largest increases in initial claims for the week ending March 28 were in Kentucky (+5,029), Michigan (+4,428), Illinois (+3,498), Ohio (+3,000), and Tennessee (+2,718), while the largest decreases were in California (-7,057), Pennsylvania (-3,302), Missouri (-2,193), Kansas (-1,726), and Minnesota (-1,559).

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance reached yet another record high of 5,840,000 and remained double that of last March. The series dates back to 1966. The four-week average of continuing claims also rose to another record of 5,647,500. 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, by nearly 30% over the last twenty years. Therefore, the insured rate of unemployment is not at a record high. It rose slightly to 4.4% which was the highest since 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 4.4% insured unemployment rate by far understates labor market distress in some states. The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending March 21 were in Michigan (7.7 percent), Oregon (7.6), Rhode Island (7.5), Puerto Rico (7.2), Idaho (7.0), Wisconsin (6.9), Pennsylvania (6.5), Montana (6.0), Nevada (6.0), and Vermont (6.0).

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

The Outlook for Productivity Growth: Symposium Summary from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco is available here.

Unemployment Insurance (000s)  04/04/09 03/28/09 03/21/09 Y/Y 2008 2007 2006 
Initial Claims 654 674 657 82.7% 420 321 313
Continuing Claims -- 5,840 5,745 99.8% 3,342 2,552 2,459
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