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Economy in Brief

U.S. Claims for Unemployment Insurance Slip, but Remain Historically High
by Tom Moeller  April 23, 2020

• Initial claims for jobless insurance eased to 4.427 million last week.

• Roughly 26 million individuals filed new claims during the last five weeks.

• The insured jobless rate jumped to 11.0%.

Initial jobless claims for unemployment insurance fell to 4.427 million during the week ended April 18 from 5.237 million in the prior week, revised from 5.245 million. During the last five weeks, 26.453 million people (16.2% of the labor force) filed new claims. The Action Economics Forecast Survey anticipated 4.200 million new filings. The four-week moving average of initial claims of 5.787 million compares to 233,000 early in March.

The latest initial claims figure covered the survey period for April nonfarm payrolls. Claims have increased nearly sixteen times since the March survey week. During the last 20 years, there has been a 70% correlation between the level of initial claims an the m/m change in nonfarm payrolls.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance increased to a record 15.976 million (863.0% y/y) in the week ending April 11 from 11.912 million one week earlier, revised from 11.976 million. The four-week moving average of claimants increased to 9.598 million from 6.050  million. The level rose from 1.726 million four weeks earlier. The insured rate of unemployment rose to 11.0% from 8.2%.

The state insured rates of unemployment are lagged by two weeks. The new data cover the week ended April 4. The highest rates were in Michigan (17.4%) and Rhode Island (15.0%), followed by Pennsylvania at 10.6%. The lowest rates were in Florida at 4.0% and South Dakota at 3.5%. These figures increased sharply in the latest week. In other states, New York realized 11.9% unemployment, New Jersey was 10.7%, California stood at 8.3% and Texas was 5.1%. These 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) 04/18/20 04/11/20 04/04/20 Y/Y % 2019 2018 2017
Initial Claims 4,427 5,237 6,615 1,858.8 218 221 244
  4-wk Average 5,787 5,507 4,268 -- -- -- --
Continuing Claims -- 15,976 11,912 863.0 1,701 1,756 1,961
  4-week Average -- 9,598 6,050 -- -- -- --
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 11.0% 8.2

(Apr. 2019)

1.2 1.2 1.4
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