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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Decline
by Tom Moeller May 6, 2010

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that initial claims for jobless insurance fell 7,000 to 444,000 after the prior week's lessened 8,000 drop. The latest level was near this cycle's lowest but fell slightly short of Consensus expectations for a decline to 440,000 claims. Last week's figure was down from the recession peak of 651,000 reached in March of 2009. The four-week moving average of initial claims increased to 458,500.

A 59,000 decline in continuing claims for unemployment insurance during the latest week followed a little-revised 10,000 drop during the prior week. They were down by one-third from the June '09 peak. 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 at 4.649M remained near the cycle low. This series dates back to 1966.

Extended benefits for unemployment insurance slipped w/w to 201,487. However, they were down by three-quarters from a peak of 597,688 reached in November.

The insured unemployment rate remained at 3.6% where it has been since mid-February. The rate reached a high of 4.9% during May. During the last ten years, there has been a 96% 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 April 17 were in Alaska (6.6 percent), Puerto Rico (6.0), Oregon (5.8), Nevada (5.1), Wisconsin (5.1), California (5.0), Michigan (4.9), Montana (4.9), Pennsylvania (4.9), Idaho (4.7), and North Carolina (4.7). The lowest insured unemployment rates were in Virginia (1.9), Texas (2.3), Georgia (2.8), Maryland (3.0), Florida (3.2), Wyoming (3.4), Ohio (3.4), New York (3.5) and Maine (3.7). 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) 05/01/10 04/24/10 04/17/10 Y/Y 2009 2008 2007
Initial Claims 444 451 459 -26.5% 572 419 321
Continuing Claims -- 4,594 4,653 -26.2% 5,809 3,340 2,549
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 3.6 3.6 4.9(5/2009) 4.4 2.5 1.9
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