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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Claims For Unemployment  Insurance Increase
by Tom Moeller  February 17, 2011

Initial claims for unemployment insurance increased to 410,000 and made up most of the prior week's decline. The earlier week's figure was revised up slightly to 385,000 from 383,000. Nevertheless, claims remained close to the lowest since July 2008. During the last ten years there has been a 77% correlation between the level of claims and the m/m change in nonfarm payrolls. The latest claims figure covered the survey week for February nonfarm payrolls and claims rose 1.7% from the January period.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance held steady and the insured unemployment rate was 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 873,002 during week ending January 29 (the latest figure available). A companion program, Emergency Unemployment Compensation, referred to as EUC 2008, saw a reduced 3.630M beneficiaries in the January 29 week (-37.4% y/y).

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 29, the total number of all these recipients fell to 9.250M, off 21.7% y/y, but the latest level remained nearly 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) 2/12/11 2/5/11 1/29/11 Y/Y % 2010 2009 2008
Initial Claims 410 385 419 -14.4 457 572 419
Continuing Claims -- 3,911 3,910 -19.3 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)* -- -- 9.250M -21.7% 9.850M 9.163M 3.903M

*Excludes disaster unemployment assistance and trade readjustment allowance
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