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NJ Unemployment Data Improve


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 February 8. 

NJ Highlights: 

  • Applications fell to lowest level since October;
  • Continuing claims reverse most of prior week’s jump;
  • Benefit exhaustions near six-year low;
  • Insured unemployment rate improved, but is still elevated.

View the accompanying chartbook.

Initial claims (chart 1), a proxy for layoffs, fell 16.6%, largely reversing the prior week’s sharp jump. Despite the recent weekly fluctuations, which are typical for this time of the year, the underlying trend has been downward; the four-week average has declined in each of the past four weeks. 

Applications in the most recent week were the fewest since October and 7.4% below the comparable week of 2013.

When adjusted for seasonal factors (chart 2), new filings were 17.7% less than the prior week’s total and more than one-fifth (21.6%) below the post-holiday peak which occurred in the last week of December.

The seasonally adjusted four-week average (chart 3) – which accounts for regularly recurring changes and smoothes weekly fluctuations – slipped (-1.5%). That is toward the low end of the range that has prevailed (excluding the Sandy-related spike) for the past two years and is equivalent to the weekly average of applications filed during the five years (2003-2007) prior to the recession.

Continuing claims (chart 4), that is individuals receiving regular benefits, fell 10.0% in the week ended February 1, reversing much of the prior week’s jump. Week-on-week fluctuations are common at this time of the year. Compared to the post-holiday spike, the number of claimants was down 10.3%; and it was 4.8% less than the comparable week a year ago. 

Adjusted for seasonality (chart 5), the number of beneficiaries fell 8.8%, more than fully reversing the prior week’s increase. The seasonally adjusted total is 8.2% above the pre-recession average, but 43.8% below the June 2009 recessionary peak.

The number of exhaustees (chart 7), that is claimants whose regular-benefit eligibility (typically 26 weeks) has run out, declined in January. Taking into account seasonal fluctuations, the exhaustion rate (chart 8) is the lowest it has been in almost six years (since June 2008).

The State’s insured unemployment rate (IUR), the number of beneficiaries as a percent of total covered employment, was 3.9% in the most recent week. That is down from 4.4% in the prior week and 4.2% in 2013’s comparable week.  New Jersey’s IUR was, together with Connecticut’s, the third highest among all states.

In sum: The State’s unemployment insurance claims data continue to retreat from the annual post-holiday spike and, longer term, remain on a gradual downward trend.

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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