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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance Reverse Prior Gains
by Tom Moeller  January 10, 2019

Initial unemployment insurance claims declined to 216,000 (-13.6% y/y) during the week ended January 5 from 233,000 in the prior week, revised from 231,000. It was the lowest level of initial claims in four weeks. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected 225,000 new filings. The four-week moving average declined to 221,750 from 219,250. 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 declined to 1.722 million (-9.6% y/y) in the week ended December 29 from 1.750 million the previous week. The four-week moving average of continuing claims rose to 1.721 million from 1.706 million. It was the highest reading since mid-August of last year.

The insured unemployment rate held steady at 1.2% in the week ended December 29, just above its record low of 1.1% reached in November. The figure compares the number of people receiving benefits to the number covered by unemployment insurance.

Insured unemployment rates vary widely by state. During the week ending December 22, the lowest rates were in North Carolina (0.45%), Florida (0.46%), Virginia (0.56%) and Tennessee (0.58%). Higher rates were in California (1.84%), Pennsylvania (1.94%), Connecticut (2.20%), New Jersey (2.20%) and Alaska (3.25%). The state data are not seasonally adjusted.

Data on weekly unemployment claims going back to 1967 are contained in Haver's WEEKLY database and 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.

How Much Do We Spend on Imports? from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco is available here.

Unemployment Insurance (SA, 000s) 01/05/19 12/29/18 12/22/18 Y/Y % 2018 2017 2016
Initial Claims 216 233 221 -13.6 221 243 264
Continuing Claims -- 1,722 1,750 -9.6 1,763 1,964 2,143
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 1.2 1.2

(Dec. 2017)

1.2 1.4 1.6
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