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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Jobless Insurance Claims Hover While Continuing Claims Plummet
Tom Moeller June 10, 2010

Job market improvement has been scant this year after material gains during 2009. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that initial claims for jobless insurance slipped another 3,000 to 456,000 following a 4,000 decline the week earlier which was less than initially reported. While the latest figure was slightly lower than Consensus expectations for 448,000, claims have been hovering near this cycle's low since January. Nevertheless, 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 ticked up to 463,000.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance during the latest week broke from their recent sideways movement and dropped a sharp 255,000 to the lowest level since December of 2008. Claims 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 4.618M remained near the cycle low. This series dates back to 1966. 

The above-mentioned decline in ongoing claims does not reflect those who receive extended benefits. Extended benefits for unemployment insurance rose sharply in the latest week to 394,380 and it was the highest level since November. These figures do not include the 4.995 mil. benefit recipients under state administered "EUC" emergency programs, but paid for by the Federal government.

The insured unemployment rate dipped to 3.5% from an upwardly-revised 3.7%. The rate reached a high of 4.9% during May of 2009. 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 May 22 were in Puerto Rico (6.2 percent), Alaska (5.5), Oregon (5.3), California (4.8), Nevada (4.7), Pennsylvania (4.6), North Carolina (4.3), Wisconsin (4.2), Connecticut (4.1), New Jersey (4.0), and Rhode Island (4.0). The lowest insured unemployment rates were in Virginia (1.8), Texas (2.1), Tennessee (2.5), Wyoming (2.5), Georgia (2.9), Maryland (2.9), Ohio (2.9), Maine (2.9) Florida (3.0) and New York (3.2). 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.

Fostering Workforce Development is yesterday's speech by Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and it is available here.

Unemployment Insurance (000s) 06/04/10 05/28/10 05/21/10 Y/Y 2009 2008 2007
Initial Claims 456 459 463 -233.6% 572 419 321
Continuing Claims -- 4,462 4,717 -31.8 5,809 3,340 2,549
Insured Unemployment Rate(%) -- 3.5 3.7 4.9 (6/2009) 4.4 2.5 1.9
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