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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Jump With Poor Weather
by Tom Moeller February 25, 2010

Snowstorms in the eastern half and the southern regions of the country helped prompt a jump in unemployment insurance claims. Today's Labor Department report indicated that initial claims for jobless insurance increased  22,000 last week to 496,000. The rise followed strong weekly gains during both January and February which raised the level to its highest since early-November. Nevertheless claims remained down from the recession peak of 674,000 hit last March and claims remained near the lowest level since January 2009. The weekly rise in claims contrasted with Consensus expectations for a decline to 460,000. The four-week moving average of initial claims rose to 473,750 and remained just above the cycle low.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance during the latest week rose slightly from the cycle-low and were down by one-third since late-June. Continuing claims were at the lowest level since early-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 4,585,750. This series dates back to 1966. 

 Extended benefits for unemployment insurance fell to another cycle low of 203,612. They were down by two-thirds from a peak of 597,688 reached in November. ยท The insured rate of unemployment remained stable for the fifth week 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 February 6 were in Alaska (7.5 percent), Oregon (6.5), Idaho (6.4), Montana (6.2), Wisconsin (6.2), Michigan (5.9), Puerto Rico (5.9), Nevada (5.8), Pennsylvania (5.7), and North Carolina (5.5). The lowest insured unemployment rates were in Virginia (2.3), Texas (2.5), Florida (3.4), Maryland (3.4), Mississippi (3.6), Wyoming (3.7), Ohio (3.9), Indiana (4.0), New York (4.1) and Maine (4.5). 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) 2/20/10 2/13/10 2/6/10 Y/Y 2009 2008 2007
Initial Claims 496 474 442 -24.4% 573 419 321
Continuing Claims -- 4,617 4,611 -8.8% 5,835 3,345 2,552
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 3.5 3.5 3.8 (2/2009) 4.4 2.5 1.9
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