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Economy in Brief

U.S. Weekly Initial Claims For Unemployment Insurance Hold Steady
by Tom Moeller October 29, 2009

The trend toward improvement in the job market continued this month. The Labor Department indicated that initial claims for unemployment insurance held roughly steady w/w at 530,000. The figures are down moderately from an average of 549,000 claims during September and are down sharply from the peak reached in March of 674,000 claims. The four-week moving average of claims fell to 526,250 while the latest weekly figure was slightly higher than Consensus expectations for 521,000 claims.

The largest increases in initial claims during the week ending October 17 were in California (+5,774, +12.6% y/y), Puerto Rico (+685, +52.9% y/y), Minnesota (+614, +38.8% y/y), Nevada (+366, 8.7% y/y ), and Nebraska (+239, -1.6% y/y), while the largest decreases were in Wisconsin (-5,681, +29.5%), New York (-4,711, +15.5% y/y), Pennsylvania (-4,033, +28.2% y/y), Illinois (-3,870, +44.9% y/y), and Oregon (-2,706, -16.6% y/y).

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance during the latest week fell 148,000 to their lowest level since late-March. The decline reflects the improved job market but may also be a function of 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 5,960,750 and have fallen 12.0% from their peak. This series dates back to 1966.

Extended benefits for unemployment insurance fell slightly for the first decline in seven weeks. The prior week's level was revised up. Through early-October extended benefits averaged 551,381.

The insured rate of unemployment slipped again to 4.4%, from an unrevised 4.5%, and matched its lowest since late-March. 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 insured unemployment rates during the week ending October 9 were in North Dakota (1.1%), South Dakota (1.1), Virginia (2.0), Wyoming (2.4), Maine (2.4), Texas (2.6), Colorado (2.9), Minnesota (3.0), Maryland (3.1), Mississippi (3.5), New York (3.5), Florida (3.7), and Georgia (3.8). The highest insured unemployment rates were in Puerto Rico (6.3), Oregon (5.3), Nevada (5.3), Pennsylvania (5.0), California (4.6), Michigan (4.6), Wisconsin (4.8), North Carolina (4.5), South Carolina (4.5), and Washington (4.3).

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

Birth date, business cycles, and lifetime income from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget is available here

Unemployment Insurance (000s)  10/23/09 10/16/09 10/09/09 Y/Y 2008 2007 2006 
Initial Claims 530 531 520 9.3% 420 321 313
Continuing Claims -- 5,797 5,945 53.6% 3,342 2,552 2,459
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 4.4 4.5 2.8 (10/2008) 2.5 1.9 1.9
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