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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance Fall; Labor Day Holiday and Hurricane Create Challenges
by Gerald D. Cohen  September 12, 2019

Initial claims for unemployment insurance fell 15,000 to 204,000 (-1.9% year-on-year) during the week ending September 7 from a slightly upwardly-revised reading of 219,000 in the previous week (was 217,000). This is the lowest level of claims since mid-April when they hit a 50-year low of 193,000. However, this week included the Labor Day holiday when seasonal adjustment and reporting challenges make this data more difficult to interpret. Moreover, Hurricane Dorian may have lowered filing rates in affected areas -- initial claims declined in Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina (in both not seasonally adjusted and Haver Analytics seasonally adjusted data). The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected overall claims of 215,000. The four-week moving average of initial claims declined to 212,500 from 216,750.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance decreased 4,000 to 1.670 million (-2.1% y/y) in the week ending August 31, from an upwardly-revised 1.674 million in the prior week. The four-week moving average of claimants declined to 1.680 million from 1.695 million.

The insured rate of unemployment remained at the record low 1.2%, where it has been since May 2018. Data on the insured unemployment rate go back to 1971.

Insured rates of unemployment vary widely by state. During the week ending August 24, the lowest rates were in South Dakota (0.21%), Nebraska (0.29%), Utah (0.41%), Indiana (0.44%), and North Carolina (0.45%). The highest rates were in California (1.70%), Rhode Island (1.78%), Pennsylvania (1.87%), Connecticut (2.14%), and New Jersey (2.37%). Among the other largest states by population not mentioned above the rate was 0.98% in Texas, 0.48% in Florida, and 1.47% 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) 09/07/19 08/31/19 08/24/19 Y/Y % 2018 2017 2016
Initial Claims 204 219 216 -1.9 220 244 262
Continuing Claims  -- 1,670 1,674 -2.1 1,756 1,961 2,135
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 1.2 1.2

(Sep 2018)

1.2 1.4 1.6
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