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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Remain Low
by Tom Moeller  May 17, 2018

Initial claims for unemployment insurance edged slightly higher last week to 222,000 (-6.7% y/y) in the week ended May 12 versus an unrevised 211,000 in the prior week. Claims were expected to rise to 215,000 in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. The four-week moving average eased to 213,300, the lowest four-week average of claims since December 1969.

The latest initial claims reading covers the survey period for May nonfarm payrolls. There was an 11,000 decline (-4.7%) versus the April period. During the last ten years, there has been a 74% correlation between the level of initial claims and the month-to-month change in nonfarm payroll employment.

In the week ending May 5, continuing claims for unemployment insurance fell to 1.707 million (-11.1% y/y) from a revised 1.794 million. The four-week moving average of claimants declined to 1.774 million from 1.814 million. Both continuing claims and their four-week average remained at their lowest level since December 1973.

The insured rate of unemployment returned to the record low of 1.2%, down from the 5.0% high late in June 2009.

Insured rates of unemployment varied widely by state. During the week ended April 28, the lowest rates of insured unemployment were Nebraska (0.39%), South Dakota (0.39%), North Carolina (0.45%), Florida (0.45%), Indiana (0.50%) and Tennessee (0.58%). The highest rates were in Illinois (1.72%), Pennsylvania (1.83%), Connecticut (2.04%), New Jersey (2.13%), California (2.22%) and Alaska (3.09%). These state 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 Forecast Survey, carried in the AS1REPNA database.

Nominal Wage Rigidities and the Future Path of Wage Growth from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City is available here.

Unemployment Insurance (SA, 000s) 05/12/18 05/05/18 04/28/18 Y/Y % 2017 2016 2015
Initial Claims 222 211 211 -6.7 245 263 278
Continuing Claims -- 1,707 1,794 -11.1 1,961 2,136 2,267
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 1.2 1.3

(May 2017)

1.4 1.6 1.7
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