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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Claims for Jobless Insurance Trend Down to Four-Month Low
by Tom Moeller  March 20, 2014

The four-week moving average of initial claims for unemployment insurance declined to 327,000, the lowest level since late-November. On a weekly basis, initial claims increased to 320,000 during the week ended March 15 from an unrevised 315,000 in the prior week. Expectations had been for 324,000 claims in the Action Economics Forecast Survey.

The latest claims figure covers the survey week for March nonfarm payrolls. There was an 11,250 decline (-3.3%) versus the February period. During the last ten years there has been a 75% correlation between the level of initial claims and the m/m change in nonfarm payrolls.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance in the week ended March 8 increased to 2.899 million (-6.1% y/y) from 2.889 million. The four-week moving average fell to 2.897 million. The insured rate of unemployment remained at 2.2%. This particular count covers only "regular" programs and does not include all extended benefit and other specialized jobless insurance programs. In the week of February 22, the latest available, the total of all benefit recipients fell sharply to 3.350 million (-37.6% 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 in 2007.

By state, the insured rate of unemployment continued to vary greatly with South Dakota (1.01%), Virginia (1.28%), South Carolina (1.45%), Texas (1.47%), North Carolina (1.73%), Indiana (1.80%) and Ohio (2.13%) at the low end of the range. At the high end were Michigan (3.25%), Massachusetts (3.36%), Illinois (3.43%, California (3.65%), Connecticut (3.82%), New Jersey (3.98%) and Alaska (5.46%). These data are not seasonally adjusted.

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 expectations figure is from the Action Economics survey, carried in the AS1REPNA database.

Unemployment Insurance (000s) 03/15/14 03/08/14 03/01/14 Y/Y % 2013 2012 2011
Initial Claims 320 315 324 -6.2 343 374 409
Continuing Claims -- 2,889 2,848 -6.1 2,980 3,319 3,742
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 2.2 2.2 2.4
2.3 2.6 3.0
Total "All Programs" (NSA) -- -- 3.350 mil. -37.6 4.659 mil. 6.047 mil. 7.750 mil.
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