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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance Decline, Continuing Claims Fall to 46-Year Low; Holiday Timing May be Obscuring Signal
by Gerald D. Cohen  November 27, 2019

Initial claims for unemployment insurance declined 15,000 to 213,000 (-9.0% year-on-year) during the week ending November 23. The previous week was revised slightly higher to 228,000 (was 227,000). The late Thanksgiving holiday may have played a role in the seasonally-adjusted decrease, though we will know more in a few weeks. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected 221,000 claims. The four-week moving average of initial claims edged down to 219,750 after reaching a five-month high last week.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance fell 57,000 to 1.640 million (-3.2% y/y) in the week ending November 16, from a slightly-upwardly revised 1.697 million. This is the lowest level of continuing claims since August 1973. However, as noted above, the timing of Thanksgiving may have played a role in the drop. The four-week moving average of claimants declined to 1.681 million from 1.694 million.

The insured rate of unemployment decreased to 1.1%, matching the record low reached in September. Data on the insured unemployment rate go back to 1971.

Insured rates of unemployment vary widely by state. During the week ending November 9, the lowest rates were in Nebraska (0.2%), South Dakota (0.2%), Florida (0.4%), Utah (0.4%), and North Carolina (0.4%). The highest rates were in Pennsylvania (1.5%), Connecticut (1.6%), California (1.7%), New Jersey (1.9%), and Alaska (2.3%). Among the other largest states by population not mentioned above the rate was 0.9% in Texas, and 1.2% in New York. This data is only reported to one decimal place, as opposed to standard two, because the holiday-driven early data release. These state data are not seasonally adjusted, thus Alaska has particularly large seasonal swings in insured rates of unemployment.

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) 11/23/19 11/16/19 11/09/19 Y/Y % 2018 2017 2016
Initial Claims 213 228 227 -9.0 220 244 262
Continuing Claims  -- 1,640 1,697 -3.2 1,756 1,961 2,135
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 1.1 1.2

(Nov 2018)

1.2 1.4 1.6
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