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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Jobless Insurance Claims Fall To 4-Week Low
by Tom Moeller  May 19, 2011

Initial claims for jobless insurance fell sharply last week to 409,000 from 438,000 during the week earlier, revised from 434,000. The latest figure was lower than Consensus expectations for 420,000 claims and was the lowest since mid-April. The four-week moving average of claims ticked up to 439,000. 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 initial claims figure covers the survey week for May nonfarm payrolls. Claims rose 5,000 (1.2%) from the April survey period. During the last ten years there has been a 765 correlation between the level of claims and the m/m change in nonfarm payrolls.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance more-than retraced the earlier gain with a decline to 3.711M. The insured unemployment rate held at 3.0%. 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, fell to 640,042 during the week ending April 30 (the latest figure available). A companion program, Emergency Unemployment Compensation, referred to as EUC 2008, saw a higher 3.469M beneficiaries (-31.9% y/y) in the April 30th 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 April 30th week, these recipients fell to 7.937M, off 21.1% y/y. We calculate a broader insured unemployment rate by taking this grand total as a percent of covered employment. The latest rate held at 5.2%. 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.

The minutes to the latest FOMC meeting can be found here.

Unemployment Insurance (000s) 5/14/11 5/7/11 4/30/11 Y/Y % 2010 2009 2008
Initial Claims 409 438 478 -14.3 459 574 418
Continuing Claims -- 3,711 3,792 -20.2 4,544 5,807 3,338
Insured Unemployment Rate(%) -- 3.0 3.0 3.7
3.6 4.4 2.5
Total "All Programs" (NSA)* -- -- 7.937M -21.1 9.850M 9.163M 3.903M

*Excludes disaster unemployment assistance and trade readjustment allowance
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