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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance Decline to Near 50-Year Low
by Gerald D. Cohen  March 28, 2019

Initial claims for unemployment insurance decreased to 211,000 (-2.8% year-on-year) during the week ended March 23 from a downwardly-revised 216,000 in the previous week. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected 224,000 claims. The four-week moving average of initial claims declined to 217,250. The Department of Labor revised the seasonal factors for both initial and continuing claims back to 2014. As a result, the September 50-year low in initial claims was revised up to 208,000; with a four-week average of 210,500.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance rose 13,000 to 1.756 million (-5.1% y/y) in the week ending March 16, from the slightly downwardly revised 1.743 million in the prior week. The four-week moving average of claimants decreased to 1.751 million.

The insured rate of unemployment remained at the record low 1.2%, where it has been since May 2018. Data on the insured unemployment rate go back to 1971.

Insured rates of unemployment vary widely by state. During the week ending March 9, the lowest rates were in Florida (0.41%), North Carolina (0.43%), Tennessee (0.57%), Georgia (0.58%) and Virginia (0.60%). The highest rates were in Connecticut (2.49%), Rhode Island (2.52%), Montana (2.58%), New Jersey (2.70%), and Alaska (2.92%). Among the other largest states by population not mentioned above the rate was 2.19% in California, 0.95% in Texas, 1.70% in New York and 2.27% in Pennsylvania. These state data are not seasonally adjusted.

Data on weekly unemployment claims going back to 1967 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.

Unemployment Insurance (SA, 000s) 03/23/19 03/16/19 03/09/19 Y/Y % 2018 2017 2016
Initial Claims 211 216 224 -2.8 220 244 262
Continuing Claims -- 1,756 1,743 -5.1 1,756 1,961 2,135
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 1.2 1.2

(Mar. 2018)

1.2 1.4 1.6
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