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Economy in Brief

U.S. Continuing Claims for Jobless Insurance Reach Another Record
by Tom Moeller April 23, 2009

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that job market stress reached another record level and that some leading sign of improvement is at best tentative. Continuing claims for unemployment insurance increased to a record high of 6,137,000 are more than double the year ago level. The series dates back to 1966. The four-week average of continuing claims also rose to another record of 5,944,000. Continuing claims provide some indication of workers' ability to find employment and they lag the initial claims figures by one week.

A leading sign of developments in the labor market tends to be provided by initial claims for unemployment insurance. Though claims rose last week to an expected 640,000 from a little revised 613,000 during the prior week, they have fallen during all of this month. The average level of claims during April of 638,000 is down from 658,000 during March. However, the early timing of Easter may have played a role in the decline as the seasonal factors raised the March level. Nevertheless, claims remain near the ten-year high.

The latest claims data cover the survey week for April nonfarm payrolls. Claims held roughly stable at 640,000 with 644,000 last month. During the last ten years there has been an 86% correlation between the level of initial claims and the change in nonfarm payrolls.

The Labor Department indicated that the largest increases in initial claims for the week ending April 11 were in Florida (+9,303), Pennsylvania (+7,538), California (+6,404), Wisconsin (+3,611), and New York (+3,581), while the largest decreases were in Michigan (-12,566), North Carolina (-6,428), Missouri (-5,575), Kentucky
(-5,313), and Oregon (-4,580).

The insured rate of unemployment continued its upward march. The latest level of 4.6% was double that of last April and the highest level 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.Clearly the figure understates labor market distress in some states. The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending April 4 were in Oregon (7.7 percent), Michigan (7.6), Idaho (6.8), Wisconsin (6.7), Puerto Rico (6.6), Pennsylvania (6.3), Nevada (6.1), Rhode Island (6.0), Vermont (5.9), and Montana (5.8).

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

Introduction to the New Keynesian Phillips Curve from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond is available here.

The Phillips Curve and U.S. Macroeconomic Policy: Snapshots, 1958-1996 also from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond can be found here.

Unemployment Insurance (000s)  04/18/09 04/11/09 04/04/09 Y/Y 2008 2007 2006 
Initial Claims 640 613 660 81.3% 420 321 313
Continuing Claims -- 6,137 6,044 109.5% 3,342 2,552 2,459
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