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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Jobless Insurance Claims Approach Cycle Low
by Tom Moeller  January 20, 2011

Initial claims for jobless insurance fell sharply last week. The decline to 404,000 from 441,000 (initially reported as 445,000) was greater than expectations for 425,000 claims, according to Bloomberg. Moreover, the latest decline reversed increases during the prior two weeks and the figure was the second lowest of the cycle.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance fell to a new cycle low of 3.861 million, the least since 2008. The insured unemployment rate remained stable at 3.1%. These claimants, however, were only about half of the total number of people currently receiving unemployment insurance. Regular extended benefits, with eligibility dependent on conditions in individual states, increased to 957,289 during week ending January 1 (the latest figure available). A companion program, Emergency Unemployment Compensation, referred to as EUC 2008, saw 3.720M beneficiaries in the January 1 week.

A grand total of all claimants for unemployment insurance includes extended and emergency programs and specialized programs covering recently discharged veterans, federal employees and those in state-run "workshare" programs. All together, on January 1, the total number of all these recipients rose to 9.607M, off 20.3% y/y though the latest level was the highest since August. We calculate a broader insured unemployment rate by taking this grand total as a percent of covered employment. That rate was just over 6% in January. It peaked at 9.3% on January 2, 2010.

Two other programs, disaster unemployment assistance (DUA) and trade readjustment allowance (TRA), are reported through a different Labor Department channel. Claimants were the lowest since June in late December. All of these individual program data are not seasonally adjusted.

Data on weekly unemployment insurance programs are contained in Haver's WEEKLY database, including the seasonal factor series, and they are 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) 1/15/11 1/8/11 1/1/11 Y/Y % 2010 2009 2008
Initial Claims 404 441 411 -17.4 457 572 419
Continuing Claims -- 3,861 3,887 -21.1 4,545 5,809 3,340
Insured Unemployment Rate(%) -- 3.1 3.1 3.7
3.6 4.4 2.5
Total "All Programs" (NSA)* -- -- -15.6% 9.850M 9.163M 3.903M

*Excludes disaster unemployment assistance and trade readjustment allowance

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