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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance Edge Higher; Continuing Claims Highest in 10 Months
by Carol Stone, CBE  February 28, 2019

Initial claims for unemployment insurance were 225,000 in the week ended February 23, up 8,000 from the previous week's 217,000; that figure was revised up by 1,000. The Action Economics Forecast Survey projected 221,000 claims this week. Even with the latest weekly increase, the four-week moving average of initial claims fell back from the prior week's 13-month high of 236,000 to 229,000.

At the same time, continuing claims for unemployment insurance rose to 1.805 million in the February 16 week from 1.726 million the week before; that earlier figure was revised up by 1,000. The latest is the largest number of claimants in a single week since last April 14. The four-week moving average of continuing claims increased from 1.755 million in the February 9 week to 1.762 million; this is again the highest since last May 5.

With the larger number of continuing claims, the insured unemployment rate - that is, continuing claims as a percent of covered employment - rose to 1.3% in the February 16 week. This is still very, very low historically, but it does break a string of nine-and-a-half months at 1.2% or 1.1%, the latter being the record low in this 48-year span of data.

In their separate program, the number of federal government workers filing initial claims fell again in their latest reading, reaching 787 in the February 16 week, down from 919 the prior week. This sustains the more normal range for these claims that has re-emerged after the government shutdown had driven them markedly higher.

Insured unemployment rates in the state programs vary widely by state. These state data are not seasonally adjusted. During the week ending February 9, the lowest rates were in Florida (0.43%), North Carolina (0.50%), Georgia (0.62%), Tennessee (0.62%) and Virginia (0.64%). The highest rates were in Alaska (3.17%), New Jersey (2.73%), Montana (2.64%), Rhode Island (2.57%) and Connecticut (2.43%). Rates in other large-population states include California (2.12%), Texas (0.98%), New York (1.75%), Pennsylvania (2.35%) and Illinois (2.30%).

Data on weekly unemployment claims going back to 1967 are contained in Haver's WEEKLY database and 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.

Unemployment Insurance (SA, 000s) 02/23/19 02/16/19 02/09/19 Y/Y % 2018 2017 2016
Initial Claims 225 217 239 3.7 221 244 262
Continuing Claims -- 1,805 1,726 -6.1 1,766 1,967 2,135
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 1.3 1.2

(Feb. 2018)

1.2 1.4 1.6
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