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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Claims for Jobless Insurance Fall As Continuing Claims Reach Another Record
by Tom Moeller April 30, 2009

In what may be a sign that the worse for the U.S. job market has passed, initial claims for unemployment insurance fell last week and they have moved slightly lower since the March high. Claims fell to 631,000 from a little revised 645,000 during the prior period and the April average of 637,000 is down from 658,000 during March. Despite the modest improvement, claims remain near the ten-year high. The four-week average of claims fell to 637,250, the lowest level since late February.

If the pace of worker layoffs has slowed, rehiring of unemployed workers has not picked up. Continuing claims for unemployment insurance increased to a record high of 6,271,000 are remain twice the year ago level. The series dates back to 1966. The four-week average of continuing claims also rose to another record of 6,076,000. Continuing claims provide some indication of workers' ability to find employment and they lag the initial claims figures by one week.

The Labor Department indicated that the largest increases in initial claims for the week ending April 18 were in California (+8,535), New York (+6,959), Connecticut (+3,086), Georgia (+3,056), and North Carolina (+2,983), while the largest decreases were in Pennsylvania (-7,799), Florida (-7,208), Illinois (-3,803), Ohio (-3,310), and Washington (-2,432).

Despite any marginal improvement in the job market, the insured rate of unemployment which follows the continuing claims figures rose yet again to 4.7%. That level was double 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 latest weekly figure understates labor market distress in some states. The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending April 11 were in Michigan (8.0 percent), Oregon (7.7), Pennsylvania (6.7), Wisconsin (6.7), Idaho (6.6), Nevada (6.3), Vermont (6.0), Rhode Island (5.9), Alaska (5.8), Illinois (5.7), and New Jersey (5.7).

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

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Unemployment Insurance (000s)  04/25/09 04/18/09 04/11/09 Y/Y 2008 2007 2006 
Initial Claims 631 645 613 66.9% 420 321 313
Continuing Claims -- 6,271 6,138 107.4% 3,342 2,552 2,459
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