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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Stutter
by Tom Moeller  April 19, 2012

Improvement in the labor market has slowed. That's the message from the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Initial claims for unemployment insurance slipped just 2,000 to 386,000 from an upwardly revised 388,000 during the prior week, earlier reported as 380,000. Earlier figures also were revised. The latest number compared to Consensus expectations for 370,000 claims. The four-week moving average of initial claims rose to 374,750, its highest since the end of January.

The latest initial claims figure covers the survey period for March payroll employment and it rose 22,000 (6.0%) from the February period. 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 rose to 3.297M during the week of April 7. The insured rate of unemployment held at 2.6% for the fourth straight week, 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 31, the latest figure available, the grand total of all benefit recipients fell to 6.765M (-18.5% y/y).

By state, the insured unemployment rate varied greatly with Virginia (1.4%), Texas (1.6%), Florida (1.8%), Louisiana (1.8%), Arizona (2.1%), Tennessee (2.0%), and Indiana (2.1%) at the low end of the range. At the high end were rates in New York (3.2%), Massachusetts (3.4%), Michigan (3.4%), Connecticut (3.6%), California (3.8% ), New Jersey (3.8%), and Pennsylvania (3.8%).

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.

Who Is The Most Unemployed? Factors Affecting Joblessness from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta is available here.

Unemployment Insurance (000s) 04/14/12 04/07/12 03/31/12 Y/Y% 2011 2010 2009
Initial Claims 386 388 362 -6.8 409 459 574
Continuing Claims -- 3,297 3,271 -11.8 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) -- -- 6.765M -18.5 7.750M 9.850M 9.163M
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