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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Rise; Total Claimant Level Falls
by Tom Moeller  January 23, 2020

Initial claims for unemployment insurance increased 6,000 to 211,000 during the week ended January 18. Claims were unchanged y/y. The previous week's figure was revised to 205,000, from 204,000. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected 212,000 initial claims. The four-week moving average of initial claims declined to 213,250, the lowest level since late September.

The latest initial claims figure covers the survey week for January nonfarm payrolls. Claims fell 24,000 (-10.2%) from the August period. During the last 20 years, there has been a 71% correlation between the level of initial claims and the y/y change in nonfarm payrolls.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance in the week ended January 11 declined 37,000 to 1.731 million (+1.4% y/y) from the prior week's 1.768 million, revised modestly from 1.767 million. The four-week moving average of claimants rose to 1.758 million, the highest level since May 2018.

The insured rate of unemployment was steady at 1.2%, where it has been since mid-November.

Insured unemployment rates continued to vary widely by state. During the week ending January 4, the lowest rates were in Florida (0.41%), North Carolina (0.48%), Nebraska (0.59%), Virginia (0.63%) and Arizona (0.64%). The highest rates were in Montana (2.59%), Rhode Island (2.60%), Connecticut (2.87%), New Jersey (3.00%) and Alaska (3.03%). Among the other largest states by population, the rate was 1.15% in Texas, 1.96% in New York and 2.06% in California. These state data are not seasonally adjusted.

Data on weekly unemployment claims dating 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) 01/18/20 01/11/20 01/04/20 Y/Y % 2019 2018 2017
Initial Claims 211 205 214 0.0 218 220 244
Continuing Claims -- 1,731 1,768 1.4 1,700 1,756 1,961
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 1.2 1.2

(Jan 2019)

1.2 1.2 1.4
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