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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Jobless Insurance Claims Higher Again
by Tom Moeller January 14, 2010

The job market again deteriorated just slightly last week. The Labor Department reported that initial claims for jobless insurance rose 11,000 to 444,000 following a 1,000 increase during the prior week. Nevertheless, claims remained near the lowest level since late in August, 2008 and were down from the recession peak of 674,000 hit last March. Consensus expectations has been for an unchanged 433,000. Despite the weekly gains, the four-week moving average of initial claims also fell to a new cycle-low of 440,750.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance during the latest week again fell sharply. The 211,000 drop was the largest since late-November and part of a one-third decline since late-June. Continuing claims were at the lowest level since mid-January of last year. 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 4,855,00. This series dates back to 1966. ยท Extended benefits for unemployment insurance ticked up slightly to 302,272 during the fourth week of December but remained down by one-half from the peak reached during November of 597,688.

The insured rate of unemployment also fell to a new low of 3.5%. 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 December 26 were in Alaska (7.4 percent), Oregon (6.6), Idaho (6.2), Wisconsin (6.2), Michigan (5.9), Montana (5.7), Nevada (5.7), North Carolina (5.6), Pennsylvania (5.5), and Washington (5.4). The lowest insured unemployment rates were in Virginia (2.1%), North Dakota (2.5), Texas (2.6), Maryland (3.0), Florida (3.4), Wyoming (3.4),  Ohio (3.7), Maine (3.7), New York (4.0) and Mississippi (4.2). These 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.

Labor Market Globalization in the Recession and Beyond from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas is available here.  

Unemployment Insurance (000s) 1/8/10 1/1/10 12/25/09 Y/Y 2009 2008 2007
Initial Claims 444 433 432 -17.0% 573 419 321
Continuing Claims -- 4,596 4,807 2.4% 5,835 3,345 2,552
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 3.5 3.6 3.5 (1/2009) 4.4 2.5 1.9
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