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Economy in Brief

U.S. Weekly Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance Slip
by Tom Moeller July 29, 2010

It was another humdrum indication of an uninspiring labor market. Initial claims for jobless insurance ticked lower last week to 457,000 from 468,000 the prior week, revised from 464,000. The four-week moving average of initial claims slipped to 452,500. That's a level it has approximated since March though these figures are down from the recession peak of 651,000 reached in March of 2009. The latest weekly figure was lower than Consensus expectations for 460,000 claims.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance during the latest week rose to 4.565M but were off 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. The four-week average of continuing claims rose slightly off the cycle low to 4.581M. This series dates back to 1966. 

Ongoing claims do not reflect those who receive extended benefits. Extended benefits for unemployment insurance fell sharply to 406,842 but have been moving erratically sideways since late-May. These figures do not include the greatly diminished 3,253,636 benefit recipients under state administered "EUC" emergency programs, but paid for by the Federal government.

The insured unemployment rate rose to 3.6% from an unrevised 3.5% during the prior week. It 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 July 10 were in Puerto Rico (6.9%), Pennsylvania (5.1), Oregon (5.0), New Jersey (4.8), Nevada (4.6), Wisconsin (4.6), California (4.5), Connecticut (4.5), Massachusetts (4.5), and Alaska (4.4). The lowest insured unemployment rates were in Virginia (1.9), Wyoming (2.1), Texas (2.3), Maine (2.7), Tennessee (2.9), Georgia (3.2), Maryland (3.2), Florida (3.3), Ohio (3.6), New York (3.7) and North Carolina  (4.0). 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) 07/24/10 07/17/10 07/10/10 Y/Y 2009 2008 2007
Initial Claims 457 468 427 -20.9% 572 419 321
Continuing Claims -- 4,565 4,484 -25.6 5,809 3,340 2,549
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 3.6 3.5 4.6 (7/2009) 4.4 2.5 1.9
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