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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance Reach Another Low
by Tom Moeller  March 22, 2012

The labor market continues to show life. That's the message from last week's decline in initial claims for unemployment insurance to 348,000 from 353,000 during the previous period, initially estimated at 351,000. Claims averaged 355,000 (-9.23% y/y) during the last four weeks. The figures remain the lowest since March 2008. The latest compared to Consensus expectations for 350,000 claims.

The latest initial claims figure covers the survey week for March payroll employment. Claims fell five thousand (-1.4%) from the February survey week. During the last ten years there has been a 74% correlation between the level of claims and the m/m change in nonfarm payrolls.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance fell to 3.352M during the week of March 10, their lowest since August 2008. The insured rate of unemployment fell to 2.6%, the lowest also since August 2008. This particular count covers only "regular" programs and does not include all extended benefit and other specialized jobless insurance programs. In the week of March 3, the latest figure available, the grand total of all benefit recipients fell to 7.282M (-16.9% y/y).

By state, the insured unemployment rate varied as of March 2 with Virginia (1.6%), Texas (1.6%), Florida (1.9%), Louisiana (2.0%), Arizona (2.2%), Tennessee (2.3%), and Ohio (2.6%) at the low end of the range. At the high end were rates in New York (3.5%), Illinois (3.8%), Massachusetts (3.9%), Michigan (4.0%), California (4.1%), New Jersey (4.3%), and Pennsylvania (4.3%).

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) 03/17/12 03/10/12 03/03/12 Y/Y% 2011 2010 2009
Initial Claims 348 353 365 -11.7 409 459 574
Continuing Claims -- 3,352 3,361 -11.0 3,745 4,544 5,807
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 2.6 2.7 3.0
3.0 3.6 4.4
Total "All Programs" (NSA) -- -- 7.282M -16.9 2.750M 9.850M 9.163M
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