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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Fall Sharply
by Tom Moeller December 15, 2011

In another sign of labor market healing, initial claims for unemployment insurance dropped sharply last week to 366,000 from 385,000 (revised from 382,000) during the week prior. The latest reading was the lowest since May 2008. Expectations had been for 390,000 claims in the Action Economics survey. The 4-week moving average of claims fell to 387,750, also its lowest since 2008. During the last ten years there has been a 75% correlation between the level of claims and the m/m change in payroll employment.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance were roughly stable at 3.603M in the December 3rd week, the lowest level since September 2008. The insured unemployment rate held steady at 2.9%, also its lowest since 2008. By state, the rate varied as of November 26th with North Dakota (0.9%), Virginia (1.5%), Texas (2.0%), Florida (2.2%), Indiana (2.2%) and Tennessee (2.3%) at the low end of the range. At the high end were rates in New York (3.2%), South Carolina (3.3%), New Jersey (3.8%), Pennsylvania (4.0%), California (4.1%) and Oregon (4.5%).

The grand total of those receiving unemployment insurance, including extended programs run by the states and the federal government, jumped w/w to 7.450M (-19% y/y) as of November 26. Regular extended benefits, with eligibility dependent on conditions in individual states, also jumped to 593,097 (-39.3% y/y) and those on the special "EUC 2008" programs rose sharply to 3.050M (-20.9% y/y).

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) 12/10/11 12/3/11 11/26/11 Y/Y% 2010 2009 2008
Initial Claims 366 385 404 -14.3 461 577 413
Continuing Claims -- 3,603 3,599 -13.5 4,544 5,807 3,338
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 2.9 2.9 3.4
3.6 4.4 2.5
Total "All Programs" (NSA) -- -- 7.450M -19.0 9.850M 9.163M 3.903M
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