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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Decline
by Tom Moeller  December 23, 2010

Initial claims for unemployment insurance slipped last week to 420,000 from 423,000 during the prior period (revised from 420,000). The four-week moving average ticked up to 426,000, still near the lowest since July 2008. The latest weekly figure matched Consensus expectations. The latest figure covers the survey period for December payroll employment and claims fell 21,000 (-4.8%) from the November period. During the last ten years there has been a 74% inverse correlation between the level of claims and the m/m change in private sector nonfarm payrolls.

Continuing claims for state-administered programs fell a sharp 103,000 in the December 11 week to 4.064M. They were the lowest since November 2008. The associated unemployment rate slipped to 3.2%, also the lowest since November 2008. These claimants are, however, only about half of the total number of people currently receiving unemployment insurance. Regular extended benefits, with eligibility dependent on conditions in individual states, rose to 893,016 on December 4, the latest figure available; renewed federal funding may see this number increase again in coming weeks. The other extra program, Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, referred to as EUC 2008, also had a reduced 3.786M beneficiaries.

A grand total of all claimants for unemployment insurance includes extended and emergency programs and specialized programs covering recently discharged veterans, federal employees and people in state-run "workshare" programs, among others. All together, on December 4, the total number of all program recipients was 8.884M, off 12.7% y/y. Two other programs, disaster unemployment assistance (DUA) and trade readjustment allowance (TRA), are reported through a different Labor Department channel and lag by an additional week. This even more comprehensive total including those equaled 9.198M in the November 26 week, down 10.7% from a year ago. These individual program data are not seasonally adjusted.

Data on weekly unemployment insurance programs are contained in Haver's WEEKLY database and summarized monthly in USECON. Data for individual states, including the unemployment rates that determine individual state eligibility for the extended benefits programs and specific "tiers" of the emergency program, are in REGIONW, a database of weekly data for states and various regional divisions.

Unemployment Insurance (000s) 12/18/10 12/11/10 12/04/10 Y/Y % 2009 2008 2007
Initial Claims 420 423 423 -10.4 572 419 321
Continuing Claims -- 4,064 4,167 -21.6 5,809 3,340 2,549
Insured Unemployment Rate(%) -- 3.2 3.3 3.9
(12/09)
4.4 2.5 1.9
Total "All Programs" (NSA)* -- -- 8,883,578 -12.7% 9.170M 3.931M 2.634M

*Excludes disaster unemployment assistance and trade readjustment allowance

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