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Economic Alert: NJ Unemployment Insurance Data Continue to Improve


By Patrick J. O'Keefe, Director of Economic Research, J.H. Cohn

Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Labor published weekly unemployment insurance statistics, including data for New Jersey through the week ended December 17, 2011.

NJ Highlights:

  • Claims activity continues to improve as year's end approaches; Seasonal fluctuations reflect stable employment conditions; and
  • Regular benefits at lowest early-December level since pre-recession.

View accompanying charts.

Initial claims (chart 1) declined sharply (-12.3%) in the most recent week, continuing the week-on-week fluctuations that are typical at this time of the year. Based on past experience, however, seasonal layoffs should cause weekly filings to surge for the next several weeks.

This year's spike is starting from a lower base than in any year since 2005. Indeed, the four-week moving average (chart 2), which smoothes weekly fluctuations, is equivalent to that during the five years (2003-2007) prior to the recession.

Continuing claims (chart 3), that is individuals receiving regular weekly benefits, rose 5.9% in the week ended December 10, partially reversing the prior week's decline.

As with initial filings, pronounced week-to-week fluctuations are typical at this time of the year. But the prevailing trend is upward, as can be seen in the moving average (chart 4). And the number of beneficiaries is expected to rise through January.

Beneath the week-to-week gyrations, however, the total number of beneficiaries in New Jersey remains on the downward trend that began in December 2009, almost two full years ago.

For the 103rd consecutive week, there was a year-on-year decline in the number of individuals receiving regular benefits. During the week ended December 10, the total number of claimants was 12.3% below 2010's comparable week.

In the most recent week, there were 40.4% fewer claimants than at the March 2009 cyclic peak. Nevertheless, the total number of claimants is 17.0% above the pre-recession average. New Jersey's insured unemployment rate ("IUR"), the number of individuals receiving benefits as a percent of total covered employment, rose to 3.7% (from 3.5% in the prior week), seventh highest among all states. During the comparable week in 2010 the State's IUR was 4.2%.

In sum: New Jersey's weekly unemployment claims activity remains consistent with typical seasonal patterns, while underlying trends in both applications and regular benefits are consistent with an economy that is stable or growing moderately.

Patrick J. O'Keefe is director of economic research at J.H. Cohn. He can be reached at pokeefe@jhcohn.com or 1-877-704-3500.

View the "Insight on the Economy" resource page and sign up to receive Economic Notes.

Published date: 12/29/2011

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