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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Claims For Jobless Insurance Decline
by Tom Moeller  January 5, 2012

The labor market realized another improvement last week. Initial claims for unemployment insurance fell to 372,000 last week from 387,000 the week earlier (revised from 381,000). The latest reading was the lowest since May, 2008. Expectations had been for 375,000 claims in the Action Economics survey. The 4-week moving average fell further to 373,250, the lowest since June 7, 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 fell further to 3.595M in the December 24th week, the lowest since September, 2008. The insured unemployment rate slipped to 2.8%. This particular count covers only "regular" programs and does not include all extended benefit and other specialized jobless insurance programs. In the December 17th week, the latest figure available, the grand total of all benefit recipients was 7.223 mil.

By state, the insured unemployment rate varied as of December 17th with North Dakota (1.3%), Virginia (1.4%), Texas (1.8%), Florida (1.9%), Indiana (2.2%) and Tennessee (2.2%) at the low end of the range. At the high end were rates in New York (3.1%), North Carolina (3.1%), New Jersey (3.6%), California (3.7%), Pennsylvania (4.0%) and Oregon (4.2%).

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 consensus estimates are in AS1REPNA.

Unemployment Insurance(000s) 12/31/11 12/24/11 12/17/11 Y/Y% 2010 2009 2008
Initial Claims 372 387 366 -11.0 461 577 413
Continuing Claims -- 3,595 3,617 -12.9 4,544 5,807 3,338
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 2.8 2.9 3.3
3.6 4.4 2.5
Total "All Programs" (NSA) -- -- 7.223 -17.8 9.850M 9.163M 3.903M
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