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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Claims For Jobless Insurance Are Stable And Low
by Tom Moeller  February 23, 2012

Job market improvement remains in place. Initial unemployment insurance claims were unchanged last week at 351,000. (The previous week was revised from 348,000). The latest are the lowest figures since March 2008. Claims averaged 359,000 (-11.3% y/y) during the last four weeks, a new cycle low. The latest compared to Consensus expectations for 355,000.

The latest initial claims figure cover the survey week for February nonfarm payrolls. Claims fell 4,000 (-1.1%) from the January period. During the last ten years there has been a 74% correlation between initial claims and the m/m change in payroll employment.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance also fell to 3.392M during the week of February 11 and were their lowest since August 2008. The insured rate of unemployment rate held at 2.7% w/w, the recovery low. This particular count covers only "regular" programs and does not include all extended benefit and other specialized jobless insurance programs. In the week of February 4th, the latest figure available, the grand total of all benefit recipients fell to 7.503M (-18.1% y/y).

By state, the insured unemployment rate varied as of February 4 with Virginia (1.7%), Texas (1.8%), Florida (1.9%), Arizona (2.3%), Tennessee (2.4%), and Ohio (2.7%) at the low end of the range. At the high end were rates in New York (3.5%), Maine (3.8%), California (4.0%), Michigan (4.1%), New Jersey (4.3%), and Pennsylvania (4.5%).

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.

What's Not Working This Time Around? Third Dialogue Examines Why Unemployment Remains High from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis is available here.

Unemployment Insurance (000s) 02/18/12 02/11/12 02/04/12 Y/Y% 2011 2010 2009
Initial Claims 351 351 361 -8.6 409 459 574
Continuing Claims -- 3,392 3,44 -11.9 3,745 4,544 5,807
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 2.7 2.7 3.1
3.0 3.6 4.4
Total "All Programs" (NSA) -- -- 7.503M -18.1 2.750M 9.850M 9.163M
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