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Economy in Brief

U.S. Weekly Initial Claims For Unemployment Insurance Retrace Prior Declines
by Tom Moeller December 10, 2009

The Labor Department indicated that recent job market improvement stalled last week as suggested by a moderate rise in initial claims for unemployment insurance. The rise to 474,000 from an unrevised 457,000 retraced much of the prior two weeks' decline. Nevertheless, claims remained near the 15-month low, down from the recession peak of 674,000 claims reached in March. The four-week moving average of claims fell to 473,750 and the latest weekly figure was higher than Consensus expectations for an increase to 460,000 claims.

,p> Continuing claims for unemployment insurance during the latest week fell a sharp 303,000 after a little-revised 24,000 increase during the week prior. Continuing claims were at the lowest level since late-February. The decline is a function of the improved job market but also reflects the exhaustion of unemployment benefits. Continuing claims provide an indication of workers' ability to find employment. The four-week average of continuing claims fell to 5,416,500. This series dates back to 1966.

Extended benefits for unemployment insurance fell sharply w/w to 407,455 during the third week of November. The latest was versus 550,343 during all of October.ยท The insured rate of unemployment fell t0 3.9%, the lowest level since February. 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 November 21 were in Puerto Rico (6.1%), Oregon (5.6), Alaska (5.5), Nevada (5.1), Wisconsin (4.9), Pennsylvania (4.8), Michigan (4.7), California (4.4) and South Carolina (4.3). The lowest insured unemployment rates were in North Dakota (1.3%), Virginia (1.9), Texas (2.4), Wyoming (2.8), Maine (2.9), Maryland (3.1), Ohio (3.3), Mississippi (3.4), New York (3.5), and Florida (3.2). The data are not seasonally adjusted but the overall insured unemployment rate is.

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

Unemployment Insurance (000s) 12/05/09 11/28/09 11/21/09 Y/Y 2008 2007 2006 
Initial Claims 474 457 463 -14.1% 420 321 313
Continuing Claims -- 5,157 5,460 18.4% 3,342 2,552 2,459
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 3.9 4.1 3.1 (11/2008) 2.5 1.9 1.9

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