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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Decline to Another Four-Month Low
by Tom Moeller  March 27, 2014

Initial claims fell sharply to 311,000 during the week ended March 22 from a little-revised 321,000 in the prior week. It was the lowest level since the last week of November. Expectations had been for 324,000 claims in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. The four-week moving average of initial claims for unemployment insurance declined to 317,750, the lowest level since late-September. During the last ten years there has been a 75% correlation between the level of initial claims and the m/m change in nonfarm payrolls.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance in the week ended March 15 declined to 2.823 million (-8.0% y/y), the lowest level since mid-December. The four-week moving average fell to 2.863 million. The insured rate of unemployment remained at 2.2% for the fourth straight week. This particular count covers only "regular" programs and does not include all extended benefit and other specialized jobless insurance programs. In the week of March 8, the latest available, the total of all benefit recipients fell sharply to 3.307 million (-39.4% y/y). This broader measure is not seasonally adjusted. It compares to a cycle peak of 12.060 million in January 2010 and pre-recession figures that averaged 2.596 million in 2007.

By state, the insured rate of unemployment continued to vary greatly with South Dakota (0.98%), Virginia (1.26%), South Carolina (1.36%), Texas (1.49%), North Carolina (1.68%), Indiana (1.76%) and Ohio (2.14%) at the low end of the range. At the high end were New York (2.88%), Michigan (3.09%), Massachusetts (3.26%), Illinois (3.63%, California (3.63%), Connecticut (3.78%) and New Jersey (4.13%). These data are not seasonally adjusted.

Data on weekly unemployment insurance are contained in Haver's WEEKLY database and they are summarized monthly in USECON. Data for individual states are in REGIONW. The expectations figure is from the Action Economics survey, carried in the AS1REPNA database.

Unemployment Insurance (000s) 03/22/14 03/15/14 03/08/14 Y/Y % 2013 2012 2011
Initial Claims 311 321 315 -12.9 343 374 409
Continuing Claims -- 2,823 2,876 -8.0 2,980 3,319 3,742
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 2.2 2.2 2.4
2.3 2.6 3.0
Total "All Programs" (NSA) -- -- 3.307 mil. -39.4 4.659 mil. 6.047 mil. 7.750 mil.
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