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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Jobless Insurance Claims Move Back Up
by Tom Moeller February 18, 2010

Today's Labor Department report that initial claims for jobless insurance moved higher last week after falling during the prior period underscores a sideways pattern in place since December. Jobless insurance rose 31,000 to 473,000 following a 41,000 decline that was less than reported initially for the prior week. Down from the recession peak of 674,000 hit last March, claims remained near the lowest level since September 2008. The weekly rise in claims contrasted with Consensus expectations for a decline to 430,000. The four-week moving average of initial claims fell slightly to 467,500 and remained just above the cycle low.

The latest initial claims figure covers the survey week for February nonfarm payrolls. There were 3,000 (1.3%) fewer claims in February than during the January period. During the last ten years there has been an inverse 84% correlation between the change in payrolls and the level of initial claims.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance during the latest week were stable at the cycle low which left them down by one-third since late-June. Continuing claims are at the lowest level since early-January of last year. The overall decline is a function of the improved job market but also reflects the exhaustion of 26 weeks of unemployment benefits. Continuing claims provide an indication of workers' ability to find employment. The four-week average of continuing claims fell to a cycle low of 4,585,750. This series dates back to 1966. 

Extended benefits for unemployment insurance fell to a new cycle low of 205,744. They were down by two-thirds from a peak of 597,688 reached in November. 

The insured rate of unemployment remained stable for the fourth week at a low of 3.5%. The rate reached a high of 5.2% during late-June. During the last ten years, there has been a 93% correlation between the level of the insured unemployment rate and the overall rate of unemployment published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending January 30 were in Alaska (7.3%), Wisconsin (6.4), Pennsylvania (6.4), Montana (6.3), Michigan (5.7), Washington (5.5), North Carolina (5.3) and Connecticut (5.2). The lowest insured unemployment rates were in Virginia (2.3), Texas (2.4), Florida (3.4), Maryland (3.7), Wyoming (3.7), Mississippi (3.7), Ohio (3.9), Indiana (4.0), New York (4.1) and Maine (4.5)

These data are not seasonally adjusted but the overall insured unemployment rate is.

The unemployment insurance claims data is available in Haver's WEEKLY database and the state data is in the REGIONW database.

The Economy and Why the Federal Reserve Needs to Supervise Banks from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis is available  here

Unemployment Insurance (000s) 2/13/10 2/6/10 1/30/10 Y/Y 2009 2008 2007
Initial Claims 473 442 483 -25.0% 573 419 321
Continuing Claims -- 4,563 4,563 -7.8% 5,835 3,345 2,552
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 3.5 3.5 3.8 (2/2009) 4.4 2.5 1.9
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