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Economy in Brief

U.S. Jobless Claims Remain Extremely Low
by Peter D'Antonio  December 27, 2018

Initial unemployment insurance claims edged down to 216,000 (-10.7% y/y) during the week ended December 22, from an upwardly revised 217,000 during the previous week. The last time initial claims were in this range was 1973. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expectation was for 216,000 new filings. The four-week moving average declined to 218,000.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance slipped to 1.701 million (-12.1% y/y) in the week of December 15, from 1.705 million the week earlier. The four-week moving average of continuing claims was nearly unchanged at 1.676 million.

The insured unemployment rate, which compares the number of people receiving benefits to the number of people covered by unemployment insurance, held steady at 1.2%, near the record low.

Layoff activity has been extremely low during this expansion. As a point of reference, the last time initial claims were at current levels (in 1973), the insured unemployment rate was 2.6%, reflecting the fact that the labor force was roughly half its current size.

Insured unemployment rates vary widely by state. Currently, Northeast and West Coast states generally have high unemployment rates, while Southern states have low rates. During the week ending December 8, the lowest rates were in North Carolina (0.47%), Florida (0.49%), South Dakota (0.51%), Indiana (0.51%), and Tennessee (0.52%). The highest rates were in Pennsylvania (1.91%), Montana (1.92%), California (1.94%), New Jersey (2.07%), and Alaska (3.24%). Among the other largest states by population, the insured unemployment rate was 0.56% in Georgia, 0.53% in Virginia, 0.96% in Texas, 1.02% in Ohio, 1.40% in Michigan, and 1.43% in New York. 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) 12/22/18 12/15/18 12/08/18 Y/Y % 2017 2016 2015
Initial Claims 216 217 206 -10.7 245 263 278
Continuing Claims -- 1,701 1,705 -12.1 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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