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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Decline
by Tom Moeller  December 16, 2010

Initial claims for unemployment insurance declined last week to 420,000 from 423,000 during the prior period (revised from 421,000). The trend level continued downward as the four-week moving average fell to 422,750, the lowest since July 2008. The latest weekly figure was lower than consensus forecasts for 425,000 claims. During the last ten years there has been a 74% inverse correlation between the level of claims and the m/m change in private sector nonfarm payrolls.

Continuing claims for state-administered programs increased 22,000 in the December 3rd week to 4,135M though they remained near the lowest since late-2008. The associated unemployment rate held at 3.3%, also the lowest since December 2008. These claimants are, however, only about half of the total number of people currently receiving unemployment insurance. Regular extended benefits, with eligibility dependent on conditions in individual states, rose to 977,339 on November 26, the latest figure available; renewed federal funding may see this number increase again in coming weeks. The other extra program, Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, referred to as EUC 2008, also had a reduced number of beneficiaries, 3.854M.

A grand total of all claimants for unemployment insurance includes extended and emergency programs and specialized programs covering recently discharged veterans, federal employees and people in state-run "workshare" programs, among others. All together, on November 26, the total number of all program recipients was 9.192M, off 10.7% y/y. Two other programs, disaster unemployment assistance (DUA) and trade readjustment allowance (TRA), are reported through a different Labor Department channel and lag by two additional weeks; an even more comprehensive total including those equaled 8.861M in the October 26 week, down 4.8% from a year ago. These individual program data are not seasonally adjusted.

Data on weekly unemployment insurance programs are contained in Haver's WEEKLY database and summarized monthly in USECON. Data for individual states, including the unemployment rates that determine individual state eligibility for the extended benefits programs and specific "tiers" of the emergency program, are in REGIONW, a database of weekly data for states and various regional divisions.

Unemployment Insurance (000s) 12/10/10 12/03/10 11/26/10 Y/Y % 2009 2008 2007
Initial Claims 420 423 438 -14.3 572 419 321
Continuing Claims -- 4,135 4,113 -22.3 5,809 3,340 2,549
Insured Unemployment Rate(%) -- 3.3 3.3 3.9
4.4 2.5 1.9
Total "All Programs" (NSA)* -- -- 9.192M -10.7% 9.170M 3.931M 2.634M

*Excludes disaster unemployment assistance and trade readjustment allowance

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