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Economy in Brief

U.S. Weekly Claims For Jobless Insurance Slip Modestly
by Tom Moeller September 3, 2009

Initial claims for unemployment insurance indicate that the labor market improved just modestly. For last week, the Labor Department indicated that claims fell a scant 4,000 to 570,000. Though the decline was the second in a row, the average for last month rose slightly to 571,000 from 559,000 during July. A decline in weekly claims to 560,000 had been expected.

The Labor Department indicated that the largest increases in initial claims for the week ending August 22 were in California (+8,632, +35.5% y/y), Ohio (+2,018, 52.5% y/y), New Hampshire (+1,237, +117.9% y/y), Wisconsin (+906, +58.0% y/y), and Minnesota (+664, +64.1% y/y), while the largest decreases were in Michigan (-2,968, +3.2% y/y), Florida (-1,653, +31.8% y/y), Pennsylvania (-1,288, +60.9% y/y), New Jersey (-1,271, -2.9% y/y), and Alabama (-1,266, +9.5% y/y).

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance during the latest week rose and reversed most of the prior period's decline. They remained down by nearly 10% from their late-June high, a decline which probably owes to the exhaustion of benefits. Continuing claims provide an indication of workers' ability to find employment and the level of 6,234,000 claims is up sharply from the year-ago level.  The four-week average of continuing claims fell modestly to 6,216,750, near the lowest since late-April. The series dates back to 1966.

Extended benefits for unemployment insurance have risen sharply indicating that worker rehiring continued weak. Though they fell in the latest week, through mid-August extended benefits averaged 446,974 versus 416,630 during July.

The insured rate of unemployment ticked up to 4.7%, but that still was near the lowest level since mid-April. The rate reached a high of 5.2% during late-June. 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 August 15 were in Puerto Rico (7.3 percent), Oregon (6.0), Pennsylvania (6.0), Nevada (5.7), Michigan (5.5), Wisconsin (5.4), Connecticut (5.3), California (5.2), New Jersey (5.2), and North Carolina (5.0). The lowest rates were in South Dakota (1.3) and North Dakota (1.5), Virginia (2.4), Wyoming (2.8), Texas (2.9), Maine (3.0), Colorado (3.2), Maryland (3.5), Minnesota (3.6), New York (4.2), Mississippi (4.2), Georgia (4.2), and Florida (4.3).

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

The minutes from the latest FOMC meeting can be found here. 

Unemployment Insurance (000s)  08/29/09 08/22/09 08/15/09 Y/Y 2008 2007 2006 
Initial Claims 570 574 580 26.7% 420 321 313
Continuing Claims -- 6,234 6,142 80.9% 3,342 2,552 2,459
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 4.7 4.6 2.6 (08/2008) 2.5 1.9 1.9

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