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NJ Unemployment Claims at Pre-Recession Levels


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

Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Labor published unemployment insurance (UI) data, including statistics for New Jersey through the week ended March 29. 

NJ Highlights: 

  • Applications fall to lowest level since 2008;
  • Adjusted for seasonality, filings near eight-year low;
  • Continuing claims drift downward;
  • Insured unemployment rate remains elevated.

View accompanying charts.

Initial claims (chart 1), a proxy for layoffs, fell 9.2% in the most recent week, dropping to the lowest level since mid-2008. 

New filings were down by two-thirds (-66.6%) compared to the end-of-year seasonal spike; they were more than one-fifth (-28.3%) below the average weekly total during the five years (2003-2007) prior to the recession. 

When adjusted for seasonal factors (chart 2), new filings were the lowest in almost eight years (since the start of April 2006). Applications were down 20.8% from the prior week and slightly less than one-third (-31.3%) below the post-holiday peak.  Applications were almost one-fifth (-19.4%) below the pre-recession average.

The seasonally adjusted four-week moving average (chart 3) – which adjusts for regularly recurring changes and smoothes weekly fluctuations – was equivalent to late-January, which was the lowest reading in three years.  

Continuing claims (chart 4), that is individuals receiving regular benefits, were little changed (+0.5%) in the week ended March 22. Due to administrative changes in the reporting of ongoing claims, some week-on-week fluctuation is expected.  Although the four-week moving average has been drifting downward since late January, it remains well above (24.8%) the pre-recession norm.

Adjusted for seasonality (charts 5 and 6), the number of beneficiaries has slipped a bit since the start of the year and is equivalent to the comparable week of 2013. 

The seasonally adjusted total is 14.7% above the pre-recession average, but 40.4% below the June 2009 recessionary peak.

The State’s insured unemployment rate (IUR), the number of beneficiaries as a percent of total covered employment, was unchanged at 3.9% in the most recent week. New Jersey’s IUR was second highest among all states.

In sum: Applications for unemployment benefits, when adjusted for seasonal fluctuations, are equivalent to the pre-recession period (April 2006).  The number of continuing claims, while elevated, is trending downward.

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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Patrick O'Keefe

Director of Economic Research

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