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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance Rise
by Tom Moeller  December 20, 2018

Initial unemployment insurance applications increased to 214,000 (-12.4% y/y) during the week ended December 15 from an unrevised 206,000 during the prior week. Initial claims remained near the lowest level since 1969. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected 215,000 initial claims. The four-week moving average of initial claims eased to 222,000.

The latest claims figure covers the survey period for December nonfarm payrolls, and there was a 4.9% decline from the November period. During the last ten years, there has been a 73% correlation between the level of initial claims and the m/m change in nonfarm payrolls.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance rose to 1.688 million (-13.4% y/y) in the week ending December 8 from 1.661 million in the prior week. The four-week moving average of continuing claims rose to 1.673 million.

The insured unemployment rate held steady at 1.2%, near the record low. The insured unemployment figures date back to 1971.

Insured rates of unemployment vary widely by state. During the week ending December 1, the lowest rates were in South Dakota (0.40%), North Carolina (0.43%), Nebraska (0.44%), Indiana (0.49%) and Florida (0.44%). The highest rates were in Illinois (1.53%), Connecticut (1.78%), California (1.92%), New Jersey (2.06%) and Alaska (3.10%). Among the other largest states by population, the rate was 0.96% in Ohio, 0.93% in Texas, 1.41% in New York, 0.57% in Georgia and 0.52% in Virginia. These state data are not seasonally adjusted.

Data on weekly unemployment claims going back to 1967 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 Forecast Survey, carried in the AS1REPNA database.

Unemployment Insurance (SA, 000s) 12/15/18 12/08/18 12/01/18 Y/Y % 2017 2016 2015
Initial Claims 214 206 233 -12.4 245 263 278
Continuing Claims -- 1,688 1,661 -13.4 1,961 2,136 2,267
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 1.2 1.2

(Dec. 2017)

1.4 1.6 1.7
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