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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Claims For Insurance Fall Back
by Tom Moeller March 4, 2010

Today's Labor Department report indicated that initial claims for jobless insurance fell 29,000 last week to 469,000 from an upwardly revised 498,000 during the prior week. Claims rose slightly for the full month but remained down from the recession peak of 674,000 hit last March. Moreover, claims remained near the lowest level since January 2009. The weekly decline in claims slightly exceeded Consensus expectations for a drop to 475,000. The four-week moving average of initial claims slipped to 470,750.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance during the latest week fell to a new cycle-low and were down by one-third since late-June. 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 4,575,750. This series dates back to 1966. 

 Extended benefits for unemployment insurance dropped sharply to another cycle low of 178,469. They were down by two-thirds from a peak of 597,688 reached in November. 

The insured rate of unemployment slipped to 3.5% from an upwardly revised 3.6% during the prior week. 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 14 were in Alaska (7.4% percent), Oregon (6.4), Idaho (6.3), Montana (6.3), Wisconsin (6.2), Michigan (5.8), Nevada (5.7), Pennsylvania (6.4), and North Carolina (5.4). The lowest insured unemployment rates were in Virginia (2.3), Texas (2.4), Florida (3.2), Georgia (3.4), Mississippi (3.6), Wyoming (3.7), Ohio (3.8), Maryland (3.9), Indiana (4.0), New York (4.1) and Maine (4.4). 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.

Changes in the Aggregate Labor Force Participation Rate from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta is available here

Unemployment Insurance (000s) 2/27/10 2/20/10 2/13/10 Y/Y 2009 2008 2007
Initial Claims 469 498 474 -27.1% 573 419 321
Continuing Claims -- 4,500 4,634 -11.3% 5,835 3,345 2,552
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 3.5 3.6 4.3 (3/2009) 4.4 2.5 1.9
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