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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Claims For Jobless Insurance Slip
by Tom Moeller  March 31, 2011

Initial claims for jobless insurance slipped to 388,000 last week from 394,000. The decline was to a level higher than Consensus expectations for 380,000, however, figures were revised back to 2006 due to new seasonal factors. Claims remained near the lowest since May 2008. The four-week moving average of claims ticked up from its recent low to 394,250. During the last ten years there has been a 77% correlation between the level of claims and the m/m change in nonfarm payrolls.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance fell to a new cycle low of 3.714M. The insured unemployment rate remained at 3.0% for the fourth consecutive week. 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, rose to 7.737M during the week ending March 12 (the latest figure available). A companion program, Emergency Unemployment Compensation, referred to as EUC 2008, saw a reduced 3.589M beneficiaries (-39.1% y/y) in the March 5th 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 "work share" programs. All together, during the March 5th week, the total number of these recipients rose slightly to 8.770M, off 24.0% y/y. We calculate a broader insured unemployment rate by taking this grand total as a percent of covered employment. The latest rate was 5.7%. 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. Action Economics estimates are in AS1REPNA.

Unemployment Insurance (000s) 3/26/11 3/19/11 3/12/11 Y/Y % 2010 2009 2008
Initial Claims 388 394 390 -14.2 459 574 418
Continuing Claims -- 3,714 3,765 -21.4 4,544 5,807 3,338
Insured Unemployment Rate(%) -- 3.0 3.0 3.6
3.6 4.4 2.5
Total "All Programs" (NSA)* -- -- 8.770M -24.0 9.850M 9.163M 3.903M

*Excludes disaster unemployment assistance and trade readjustment allowance
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