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Economy in Brief

U.S. Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims Slip
by Tom Moeller  May 23, 2019

The labor market remains on a firm footing. Initial claims for unemployment insurance eased 1,000 to 211,000 (-7.6% y/y) during the week ended May 18 from an unrevised 212,000 in the previous week. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected 215,000 initial claims. The four-week moving average of initial claims fell to 220,250 and reversed the increase to 225,000 during the prior week.

The latest initial claims figure covers the survey week for May nonfarm payrolls. Claims rose 18,000 (9.3%) from the April survey period. During the last 20 years, there has been a 73% correlation between the level of initial claims and the m/m change in nonfarm payrolls.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance rose 12,000 to 1.676 million (-4.2% y/y) in the week ending May 11 from 1.664 million in the prior week, revised from 1.660 million. The four-week moving average of claimants increased to 1.674 million, the highest level in four weeks.

The insured rate of unemployment remained at the record low of 1.2%, where it's been for twelve months. The series dates back to 1970.

Insured rates of unemployment vary widely by state. During the week ending May 4, the lowest rates were in South Dakota (0.29%), Nebraska (0.32%), Florida (0.40%), North Carolina (0.43%) and Indiana (0.45%). The highest rates were in Pennsylvania (1.55%), Connecticut (1.75%), California ( 1.94%), New Jersey (1.97%), and Alaska (2.38%). Among the other largest states by population, the rate was 0.90% in Texas, 1.25% in New York and 1.47% in Illinois. 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 in the AS1REPNA database.

Unemployment Insurance (SA, 000s) 05/18/19 05/11/19 05/04/19 Y/Y % 2018 2017 2016
Initial Claims 211 212 228 -7.6 220 244 262
Continuing Claims  -- 1,676 1,664 -4.2 1,756 1,961 2,135
Insured Unemployment Rate (%) -- 1.2 1.2

(May 2018)

1.2 1.4 1.6
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