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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Claims For Jobless Insurance Rise
by Tom Moeller  March 10, 2011

Initial claims for unemployment insurance rose to 397,000 last week from 371,000, initially reported as 368,000. Consensus expectations had been for 380,000 claims according to Action Economics. Despite the increase, claims remained near the lowest since May 2008. The four-week moving average of claims ticked up to 392,250. During the last ten years there has been a 77% correlation between the level of claims and the m/m change in nonfarm payrolls.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance also fell to 3.771M and were the lowest since October 2008. The insured unemployment rate remained at 3.0%. These claimants, however, were only about half of the total number of people currently receiving unemployment insurance. Regular extended benefits, with eligibility dependent on conditions in individual states, dropped sharply to 702,604 during the week ending February 19 (the latest figure available). A companion program, Emergency Unemployment Compensation, referred to as EUC 2008, saw a reduced 3.601M beneficiaries (-34.9% y/y) in the February 19 week.

A grand total of all claimants for unemployment insurance includes extended and emergency programs and specialized programs covering recently discharged veterans, federal employees and those in state-run "workshare" programs. All together, during the February 19th week, the total number of these recipients fell to 8.773M, off 23.2% y/y. We calculate a broader insured unemployment rate by taking this grand total as a percent of covered employment. The latest rate was 5.7%. It peaked at 9.3% on January 2, 2010.

Two other programs, disaster unemployment assistance (DUA) and trade readjustment allowance (TRA), are reported through a different Labor Department channel. Claimants were the lowest since June in late December. All of these individual program data are not seasonally adjusted.

Data on weekly unemployment insurance programs are contained in Haver's WEEKLY database, including the seasonal factor series, and they are 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. Action Economics estimates are in AS1REPNA

Unemployment Insurance (000s) 3/5/11 2/26/11 2/19/11 Y/Y % 2010 2009 2008
Initial Claims 397 371 388 -12.0 457 572 419
Continuing Claims -- 3,771 3,791 -19.7 4,545 5,809 3,340
Insured Unemployment Rate(%) -- 3.0 3.0 3.7
3.6 4.4 2.5
Total "All Programs" (NSA)* -- -- 8.773M -23.2 9.850M 9.163M 3.903M

*Excludes disaster unemployment assistance and trade readjustment allowance
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