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NJ Unemployment Claims Retreat From Seasonal Spike


by Patrick J. O'Keefe, Director of Economic Research

The U.S. Department of Labor has released unemployment insurance claims data for New Jersey through the week ended January 23.

As displayed in the accompanying charts, the most recent data show that:

  • Applications have fallen by one-half from the post-holiday peak;
  • The number of recipients has slipped from the year-end spike; and
  • Recipients exhausting benefit eligibility fell to the lowest rate since 1999.

View the accompanying chartbook.

Initial claims (i.e., applications for benefits, which are a proxy for layoffs) have dropped sharply (-50.5%) from the post-holiday spike in the last week of December. [Charts 1- 3]

Adjusted for seasonal factors -- such as post-holiday cut-backs by retailers -- benefit applications have declined for three consecutive weeks -- down cumulatively by one-quarter (25.4%) -- and are at the lowest level since the second week of December.

Compared to the same week a year ago, new filings are down 12.8%. The most recent week's activity was 7.9% less than the pre-recession norm (i.e., average weekly applications from 2003 through 2007).

Continuing claims, that is the count of individuals receiving regular weekly benefits, rose 3.0% in the most recent week. This year's count, which reflected the usual post-holiday bump, was 9.4% smaller than the total in 2016's comparable week. [Charts 4 - 6]

Adjusted for seasonal factors, this year's increase was 10.1% smaller than in the same week last year.

Taking account of both seasonal patterns and using a four-week average to smooth weekly gyrations, the number of beneficiaries was 8.1% below the pre-recession average and down 53.0% from the June 6, 2009 recessionary peak. [Chart 6]

Benefit exhaustions (i.e., the share of beneficiaries exhausting their eligibility, typically 26 weeks) fell to the lowest level (42.4% of all claimants) since June 1999. [Chart 7]

A decline in the exhaustion rate suggests improved employment opportunities.

New Jersey's insured unemployment rate (IUR), the number of beneficiaries as a percentage of all jobs subject to unemployment insurance coverage, remains elevated. [Chart 9]

At 3.2% it is about double the national rate and higher than all but four other states.

The statements, opinions, and conclusions contained herein are based solely upon the author’s own studies, research, and personal experience. Neither CohnReznick nor the author make any representation or warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of this information. CohnReznick and the author expressly disclaim any liability for any loss or damage which may be incurred, of any kind whatsoever, as a result of or arising from the use of any of the information contained herein or reliance on the accuracy or completeness of it.

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