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Economy in Brief

U.S. Weekly Initial Claims Unemployment Insurance Hold Steady Near January Low
by Tom Moeller November 19, 2009

Layoffs from the U.S. workforce held steady last week at the recent low. That's according to the Labor Department which reported that initial claims for unemployment insurance equaled the prior week's upwardly revised level of 505,000. Claims have not been lower since the first week of January and have fallen sharply from the peak reached in March of 674,000 claims. The four-week moving average of claims fell to 514,000 and the latest weekly figure about matched Consensus expectations.

The latest figure covers the survey week for November nonfarm payrolls and claims fell 26,000 (4.9%) from the October period. During the last ten years there has been a negative 85% correlation between level of initial claims for jobless insurance the m/m change in nonfarm payrolls.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance during the latest week fell 39,000 to their lowest level since mid-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 5,711,500 and have fallen 18.7% from their late-June peak. This series dates back to 1966.

Extended benefits for unemployment insurance rose fell modestly w/w but averaged 543,645 last month versus 456,982 during September.

The insured rate of unemployment held steady at 4.3% 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 highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending October 31 were in Puerto Rico (6.1%), Oregon (5.5), Nevada (5.2), California (5.0), Alaska (5.0), Arkansas (4.9), Wisconsin (4.9), Pennsylvania (4.8), Michigan (4.8), North Carolina (4.6), and South Carolina (4.6). The lowest insured unemployment rates were in North Dakota (1.1%), South Dakota (1.2), Virginia (2.0), Texas (2.5), Maine (2.6), Wyoming (2.8), Ohio (3.1), Maryland (3.1), New York (3.4), Mississippi (3.6) and Florida (3.7).

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

Unemployment Insurance (000s)  11/14/09 11/07/09 10/31/09 Y/Y 2008 2007 2006 
Initial Claims 505 505 514 -5.3% 420 321 313
Continuing Claims -- 5,611 5,650 39.5% 3,342 2,552 2,459
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 4.3 4.3 3.1(11/2008) 2.5 1.9 1.9
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