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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Continue Downward
by Tom Moeller  April 5, 2012

Initial claims for unemployment insurance fell six thousand to 357,000 during the week ended March 31 from 363,000 in the prior week, reported earlier as 359,000. The latest figure was the lowest since April of 2008. The weekly number compared to Consensus expectations for 360,000 claims. Also moving lower was the four-week moving average of claims to a cycle low of 361,750. 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 3.338M during the week of March 24, their lowest since August 2008. The insured rate of unemployment was stable at 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 17, the latest figure available, the grand total of all benefit recipients fell to 7.051M (-17.4% y/y).

By state, the insured unemployment rate varied greatly with Virginia (1.5%), Texas (1.7%), Florida (1.8%), Louisiana (1.9%), Arizona (2.1%), Tennessee (2.1%), and Indiana (2.3%) at the low end of the range. At the high end were rates in New York (3.4%), Illinois (3.7%), Massachusetts (3.8%), Michigan (3.8%), California (4.0% ), New Jersey (4.1%), and Pennsylvania (4.1%).

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.

Conclusion: How Low Will the Unemployment Rate Go? from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York can be found here.

Unemployment Insurance(000s) 03/31/12 03/24/12 03/17/12 Y/Y% 2011 2010 2009
Initial Claims 357 363 364 -10.8 409 459 574
Continuing Claims -- 3,338 3,354 -11.4 3,745 4,544 5,807
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 2.6 2.6 3.0
3.0 3.6 4.4
Total "All Programs" (NSA) -- -- 7.051M -17.4 2.750M 9.850M 9.163M
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