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Economy in Brief

U.S. Weekly Claims For Jobless Insurance Near Cycle Low
by Tom Moeller September 10, 2009

Initial claims for jobless insurance have been suggesting improvement in the labor market, however grudging. For last week, the Labor Department indicated that claims fell 26,000 to 550,000 which was their lowest level since early-July and down from the March weekly peak of 674,000. The latest decline about matched expectations.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance during the latest week fell and more than reversed all of the prior period's increase. The decline was to the lowest level since early-April and claims were down by 10% from the late-June high, a decline which probably owes partially to the exhaustion of benefits. Continuing claims provide an indication of workers' ability to find employment. The level of 6,088,000 claims is up sharply from the year-ago level. The four-week average of continuing claims fell modestly to 6,182,500. The series dates back to 1966.

Extended benefits for unemployment insurance slipped for the fourth week in the last five. Nevertheless, the trend in benefits has been sharply upward as worker rehiring continues weak. Through mid-August extended benefits averaged 453,831 versus 416,630 during July.

The insured rate of unemployment dipped slightly to 4.6% and 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 Aug. 22 were in Puerto Rico (7.0 percent), Pennsylvania (5.9), Oregon (5.9), Michigan (5.7), Nevada (5.7), California (5.3), Wisconsin (5.3), Connecticut (5.2), New Jersey (5.1), North Carolina (4.8), Rhode Island (4.8), and South Carolina (4.8).

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

Unemployment Insurance (000s)  09/05/09 08/29/09 08/22/09 Y/Y 2008 2007 2006 
Initial Claims 550 576 574 23.0% 420 321 313
Continuing Claims -- 6,088 6,247 71.5% 3,342 2,552 2,459
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 4.6 4.7 2.7 (08/2008) 2.5 1.9 1.9
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