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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Fall Slightly; Continuing Claims Off As Well
by Tom Moeller October 15, 2009

A recent downtrend in initial claims for unemployment insurance continued last week. They fell slightly and remained near their lowest level since early-January. The Labor Department indicated that claims fell to 514,000 from an upwardly revised 524,000 during the prior week. Both figures are down sharply from the peak reached in March of 674,000 claims. The latest figure was lower than Consensus expectations for 525,000 claims.

The largest decreases in initial claims during the week ending October 3 were in Florida (-5,178), California (-3,911), Tennessee (-683), Illinois (-682), and Arkansas (-589) while the largest increases in claims were in Pennsylvania (+3,618), Washington (+1,857), Wisconsin (+1,629), Missouri (+1,441), and Texas (+1,291).

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance during the latest week fell 75,000 to their lowest level since late-March. The decline continues to owe partially to the exhaustion of benefits. Continuing claims provide an indication of workers' ability to find employment. The four-week average of continuing claims fell modestly to 6,082,750. This series dates back to 1966.  Extended benefits for unemployment insurance rose sharply for the fifth consecutive week. Through the end of last month, extended benefits averaged 471,031.

The insured rate of unemployment slipped to 4.5% and matched its lowest since early-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 lowest rates were in North Dakota (1.0%), South Dakota (1.1), Virginia (2.1), Wyoming (2.5), Maine (2.5), Texas (2.6), Colorado (2.9), Minnesota (3.0), Maryland (3.1), Mississippi (3.5), New York (3.5), Florida (3.8), and Georgia (3.9). The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending Sept. 26 were in Puerto Rico (7.1 percent), Oregon (5.3), Nevada (5.2), Pennsylvania (5.0), California (4.7), Michigan (4.6), North Carolina (4.6), Wisconsin (4.6), Arkansas (4.5), and South Carolina (4.5).

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

Yesterday's Senate testimony by Fed Governor Daniel K. Tarullo, State of the banking industry, can be found here

Unemployment Insurance (000s)  10/09/09 10/02/09 09/26/09 Y/Y 2008 2007 2006 
Initial Claims 514 524 554 9.6% 420 321 313
Continuing Claims -- 5,992 6,067 59.7% 3,342 2,552 2,459
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 4.5 4.6 2.8 (10/2008) 2.5 1.9 1.9
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