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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Jobless Insurance Claims Inch Up
by Tom Moeller February 4, 2010

The Labor Department reported that initial claims for jobless insurance last week made up the prior period's decline with a gain to 480,000. Despite the increase, claims remained near the lowest level since late August, 2008 and were down from the recession peak of 674,000 hit last March. Consensus expectations had been for 454,000 claims. The weekly gains raised the four-week moving average of initial claims to 468,750 which remained near the cycle low.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance during the latest week held roughly steady at the cycle low. The 2,000 weekly uptick left claims down by one-third 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 a cycle low of 4,617,500. This series dates back to 1966.

Extended benefits for unemployment insurance slipped to another cycle low of 222,833 during the third week of January and were down by two-thirds from a peak of 597,688 reached in November.

The insured rate of unemployment remained stable at a 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 January 15 were in Alaska (7.3), Pennsylvania (6.5), Wisconsin (6.4 percent), Montana (6.2), Michigan (6.0), North Carolina (5.3), Washington (5.3) and Connecticut (5.3). The lowest insured unemployment rates were in Virginia (2.3), Texas (2.5), Florida (3.4), Maryland (3.7), Mississippi (3.8), Wyoming (3.8), Ohio (3.9), New York (4.1) and Maine (4.3). 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.

Unemployment Insurance (000s) 1/30/10 1/23/10 1/16/10 Y/Y 2009 2008 2007
Initial Claims 480 472 479 -23.1% 573 419 321
Continuing Claims -- 4,602 4,600 -3.1% 5,835 3,345 2,552
Insured Unemployment Rate (%)  -- 3.5 3.5 3.5 (1/2009) 4.4 2.5 1.9

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