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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Are Lower Again
by Tom Moeller June 3, 2010

The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that initial claims for jobless insurance slipped another 10,000 to 453,000. That followed last week's 11,000 decline which was less than initially reported. The latest number matched Consensus expectations and claims remained near this cycle's lowest. Last week's figure was down from the recession peak of 651,000 reached in March of 2009 but the four-week moving average of initial claims ticked up to 459,000.

A 31,000 increase in continuing claims for unemployment insurance during the latest week reversed the declines during the prior two weeks. Nevertheless, claims remained near the cycle low and down by one-third from the June '09 peak. 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 at 4.654M remained near the cycle low. This series dates back to 1966.

Extended benefits for unemployment insurance rose further w/w to 314,311 with recent changes to the duration benefits paid. However, they were down sharply from a peak of 597,688 reached in November.

The insured unemployment rate remained at 3.6% where it has been since mid-February. The rate reached a high of 4.9% during May of 2009. During the last ten years, there has been a 96% 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 May 15 were in Puerto Rico (5.9 percent), Alaska (5.8), Oregon (5.2), Nevada (4.8), California (4.6), Pennsylvania (4.5), Wisconsin (4.4), North Carolina (4.3), Connecticut (4.1), Michigan (4.0), Montana (4.0), New Jersey (4.0), Rhode Island (4.0), and South Carolina (4.0). The lowest insured unemployment rates were in Virginia (1.8), Texas (2.2), Tennessee (2.6), Wyoming (2.7), Georgia (2.8), Maryland (2.8), Ohio (2.9), Maine (3.0) Florida (3.2) and New York (3.3). 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.

Unemployment Insurance (000s) 05/29/10 05/22/10 05/15/10 Y/Y 2009 2008 2007
Initial Claims 453 463 474 -26.5% 572 419 321
Continuing Claims -- 4,666 4,635 -28.4 5,809 3,340 2,549
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 3.6 3.6 4.9 (5/2009) 4.4 2.5 1.9
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