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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Tick Higher
by Tom Moeller  September 19, 2013

The job market remains on a firm footing. That's suggested by last week's modest rise in initial claims for jobless insurance to 309,000 from 294,000 during the previous period, revised from 292,000. Expectations had been for a larger rise to 326,000 according to the Action Economics Forecast Survey. The four-week moving average of initial claims fell sharply to 314,750, its lowest since October 2007. Data processing problems in California and Nevada account for some portion of the decline in claims in early September.

The latest initial claims figure covers the survey week for September nonfarm payrolls. Claims fell 28,000 (8.3%) from the August period. During the last ten years there has been a 75% correlation between the level of claims and the m/m change in payroll employment. The aberrant figures for California and  Nevada suggest a notably low correlation during this month.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance in the week ended September 7 declined to 2.787 million (-14.7% y/y) from 2.815 million a week earlier. The four-week moving average of continuing claims fell to a cycle-low of 2.885 million. The insured rate of unemployment declined to 2.1%, the lowest since February 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 August 31, the latest figure available, the total of all benefit recipients declined to a new low of 4.037 million (-22.0% y/y). This broader measure is not seasonally adjusted. It compares to a cycle peak of 12.060 million in January 2010 and pre-recession figures that averaged 2.596 million for 2007. The number of individuals who were collecting emergency and extended payments in the week of August 31 slipped to 1.483 million (-32.7% y/y).

By state, the insured rate of unemployment continued to vary greatly with North Dakota (0.43%), Virginia (1.11%), Ohio (1.38%), Indiana (1.44%), Texas (1.50%), Maine (1.45%) and Vermont (1.29%) at the low end of the range. At the high end were Michigan (1.80%), California (2.06%) Wisconsin (2.22%), Illinois (2.50%), New York (2.68%), Pennsylvania (2.96%) and New Jersey (3.50%).

Data on weekly unemployment insurance are contained in Haver's WEEKLY database and they are summarized monthly in USECON. Data for individual states are in REGIONW. The consensus estimates come from the Action Economics survey, carried in the AS1REPNA database.

Unemployment Insurance (000s) 09/14/13 09/07/13 08/31/13 Y/Y % 2012 2011 2010
Initial Claims 309 294 323 -18.5 375 409 459
Continuing Claims -- 2,787 2,815 -14.7 3,318 3,744 4,544
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 2.1 2.2 2.6
2.6 3.0 3.6
Total "All Programs" (NSA) -- -- 4.037 mil. -22.0 6.047 mil. 7.750 mil. 9.850 mil.
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