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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Claims For Unemployment Insurance Fall To Lowest Since 2008
by Tom Moeller  January 19, 2012

Improvement in the labor market appears back on track. Initial claims for unemployment insurance fell to 352,000 last week from 402,000 the week earlier (revised from 399,000). The latest figure was the lowest reading since April, 2008. Expectations had been for 385,000 claims in the Action Economics survey. The 4-week moving average slipped to 379,000.

The latest claims number covers the survey week for January payroll employment. There was a 14,000 decline (-3.8%) from the December period. 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 215,000 to 3.432M in the first week of the year. The insured unemployment rate fell to 2.7%, the lowest since September, 2008. This particular count covers only "regular" programs and does not include all extended benefit and other specialized jobless insurance programs. In the December 31st week, the latest figure available, the grand total of all benefit recipients rose to 7.827 mil. (-18.9% y/y).

By state, the insured unemployment rate varied as of December 31st with Virginia (1.7%), Texas (1.9%), Florida (1.9%), Arizona (2.3%), Tennessee (2.6%), Ohio (2.8%) and Indiana (2.8%) at the low end of the range. At the high end were rates in New York (3.8%), North Carolina (3.8%), California (3.8%), Michigan (3.9%), New Jersey (4.3%), Pennsylvania (4.7%) and Connecticut (6.6%).

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) 01/14/12 01/07/12 12/31/11 Y/Y% 2011 2010 2009
Initial Claims 352 402 375 -15.2 409 459 574
Continuing Claims -- 3,432 3,647 -13.1 3,745 4,544 5,807
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 2.7 2.9 3.2
3.0 3.6 4.4
Total "All Programs" (NSA) -- -- 7.827M -18.9 2.750M 9.850M 9.163M
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