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Economy in Brief

U.S. Weekly Claims for Unemployment Insurance Rise Unexpectedly but the Trend Is Still Down
by Tom Moeller August 13, 2009

The latest figures from the Labor Department indicate that initial claims for unemployment insurance increased slightly to 558,000 last week after an upwardly revised 554,000 during the prior week. For all of July, claims fell 9.3% from June but since the beginning of the month they moved sideways. The four-week moving average of claims, which smoothes out some of the volatility in the weekly numbers, ticked up to 565,000 but was still near its lowest level since late-January. A decline in weekly claims to 545,000 had been expected.

The Labor Department indicated that the largest increases in initial claims for the week ending Aug. 1 were in Alabama (+721, 58.4% y/y), Washington (+692, 47.6% y/y), Nebraska (+306, 40.4% y/y), Kentucky (+247, 46.9% y/y), and Delaware (+157, 43.0% y/y), while the largest decreases were in California (-7,258, -16.4% y/y), Michigan (-7,031, -20.9% y/y), Tennessee (-4,391, +30.9% y/y), Florida (-3,358, -6.1% y/y), and Georgia (-2,538, +19.8% y/y).

The lower level of initial claims has been accompanied by lower continuing claims for unemployment insurance which probably owes partly to the exhaustion of benefits. For the latest week, they declined 141,000 and since their peak last month they've fallen 702,000 or 10.2%. Continuing claims provide an indication of workers' ability to find employment and the level of 6,202,000 claims is up sharply from the year-ago level. The four-week average of continuing claims fell back to 6,259,250 and that was the lowest since late-April. The series dates back to 1966.

The insured rate of unemployment remained at 4.7% which was the lowest level since mid-April. 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 July 25 were in Michigan (6.8 percent), Puerto Rico (6.7), Oregon (6.3), Pennsylvania (6.2), Nevada (6.0), Wisconsin (5.6), Connecticut (5.5), California (5.4), New Jersey (5.4), and Illinois (5.3). The lowest rates were in South Dakota (1.4) and North Dakota (1.6), Virginia (2.5), Wyoming (3.0), Texas (3.0), Maine (3.2), Colorado (3.4), Maryland (3.6), Minnesota (3.7), Florida (4.3), Mississippi (4.3), New York (4.4) and Georgia (4.3).

The unemployment insurance claims data is available in Haver's WEEKLY database and the state data is in the REGIONW database.

Unemployment Insurance (000s)  08/07/09 07/31/09 07/24/09 Y/Y 2008 2007 2006 
Initial Claims 558 554 589 26.8% 420 321 313
Continuing Claims -- 6,202 6,343 82.6% 3,342 2,552 2,459
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 4.7 4.8 2.5 2.5 1.9 1.9
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