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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Fall Sharply
by Tom Moeller  May 3, 20120

The job market picture brightened significantly last week. Initial unemployment insurance claims fell sharply to 365,000 from an upwardly revised 392,000 during the prior week, earlier reported as 388,000. The latest figure reversed all of the gains during the prior three weeks. Nevertheless, the four-week moving average of initial claims rose to 383,500, its highest since early December. The latest weekly number compared to Consensus expectations for 380,000 claims.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance fell sharply to 3.276M during the week of April 21. and reversed the gains during the prior two weeks. The insured rate of unemployment held at 2.6% for the sixth 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 April 14, the latest figure available, the grand total of all benefit recipients fell to 6.597M (-18.3% y/y), the lowest level since November.

By state, the insured unemployment rate varied greatly with Virginia (1.4%), Texas (1.6%), Florida (1.8%), Louisiana (1.8%), Tennessee (1.8%), Indiana (2.0%) and Arizona (2.3%) at the low end of the range. At the high end were rates in Massachusetts (3.1%), Michigan (3.2%), New York (3.3%), Connecticut (3.5%), California (3.8% ), New Jersey (3.9%), Pennsylvania (3.9%) and Alaska (5.6%).

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.

Unemployment Insurance (000s) 04/28/12 04/21/12 04/14/12 Y/Y% 2011 2010 2009
Initial Claims 365 392 389 -21.3 409 459 574
Continuing Claims -- 3,276 3,329 -13.0 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) -- -- 6.597M -17.7 7.750M 9.850M 9.163M
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