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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Jobless Insurance Claims Fall Back To New Low
by Tom Moeller December 24, 2009

The jobs market resumed its recent trend toward improvement. The Labor Department reported that initial claims for unemployment insurance fell to 452,000 from an unrevised 480,000 during the prior week. Claims now stand at the lowest level since the first week of September 2008 and were down from the recession peak of 674,000 hit in March. The four-week moving average of claims also fell to a new low of 465,250. The latest weekly figure was lower than Consensus expectations for 470,000 claims.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance during the latest week fell 127,000 after an upwardly revised 40,000 gain during the prior week. Continuing claims were at the lowest level since February. The overall decline is a function of the improved job market but also reflects the exhaustion of 26 weeks of unemployment benefits. Continuing claims provide an indication of workers' ability to find employment. The four-week average of continuing claims fell to 5,233,000. This series dates back to 1966.

Extended benefits for unemployment insurance dropped sharply to 393,956 during the first week of December. The latest was down from the peak during last month of 597,688.

The insured rate of unemployment remained stable at 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. 

p> The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending December 5 were in  Puerto Rico (6.4%), Oregon (5.9), Pennsylvania (5.6), Wisconsin (5.6), Alaska (5.5), Nevada (5.2), Michigan (4.9), California (4.9) and South Carolina (4.7). The lowest insured unemployment rates were in North Dakota (1.7%), Virginia (2.0), Texas (2.5), Wyoming (3.0), Maine (3.3), Maryland (3.4), Mississippi (3.4), Florida (3.5), New York (3.7) and Ohio (3.7). 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) 12/19/09 12/12/09 12/05/09 Y/Y 2008 2007 2006 
Initial Claims 452 480 475 -19.9% 420 321 313
Continuing Claims -- 5,076 5,203 17.2% 3,342 2,552 2,459
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 3.9 3.9 3.3 (12/2008) 2.5 1.9 1.9

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