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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Claims for Jobless Insurance Continue Downward
by Tom Moeller  March 29, 2012

The job market continued to firm last week. Initial claims for unemployment insurance fell 5,000 to 359,000 during the week ended March 24 from an upwardly revised 364,000 in the previous week. The latest figure was the lowest since April of 2008 and data back to 2007 were revised due to updated seasonal factors. The weekly number compared to Consensus expectations for 350,000 claims. Continuing downward was the four-week moving average of initial claims to the cycle's low of 365,000. 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 3.340M during the week of March 17, their lowest since August 2008. The insured rate of unemployment fell to 2.6%, also the lowest 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 10, the latest figure available, the grand total of all benefit recipients fell to 7.153M (-16.4% y/y).

By state, the insured unemployment rate varied greatly with Virginia (1.6%), Texas (1.6%), Florida (1.8%), Louisiana (2.0%), Arizona (2.2%), Tennessee (2.2%), and Indiana (2.5%) at the low end of the range. At the high end were rates in New York (3.5%), Illinois (4.0%), Massachusetts (3.9%), California (3.9% ), Michigan (4.0%), New Jersey (4.2%), and Pennsylvania (4.6%).

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.

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Unemployment Insurance (000s) 03/24/12 03/17/12 03/10/12 Y/Y% 2011 2010 2009
Initial Claims 359 364 363 -10.5 409 459 574
Continuing Claims -- 3,340 3,381 -11.4 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) -- 3.153M -18.4 2.750M 9.850M 9.163M
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