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NJ Unemployment Insurance Claims Down Post-Sandy

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

View accompanying charts.

Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Labor published weekly unemployment insurance (UI) statistics, including data for New Jersey through February 16, 2013. 

Sandy-related Background:

Until recently, New Jersey’s UI data were dominated by the impacts of Hurricane Sandy, which made landfall in New Jersey on October 29.  In its immediate aftermath, initial claims jumped 168.7% relative to the comparable period in 2011.

In the two weeks immediately after the storm, 91,760 claims were filed; the comparable figure for 2011 was 24,162; in the next three weeks, 65,408 applications were filed in 2012, versus 30,628 in 2011.  Year-on-year, initial claims almost tripled. [Chart 1]

The post-storm spike in applications was followed by a substantial rise in continued claims.  However, that jump was less sharp than the surge in applications because payments as a proportion of new claims fell to the lowest level on records since 1999.

And Sandy’s influence on the UI data continues to decline.

Most Recent Data:

In the week ended February 16, 2013:

  • New claims were below pre-recession levels and near 2012’s comparable week;
  • Continuing claims, while seasonally elevated, were below the year-ago level;
  • Insured unemployment rate in mid-February was equivalent to last year’s.

Initial claims (chart 1) fell sharply (-9.4%) in the most recent week.  Applications for benefits have fallen 54.4% -- down 5 of 7 weeks -- since recording the post-holiday seasonal peak at the end of December.  

New claims were somewhat higher (+4.2%) than in the comparable week of 2012. 

In the most recent week, new claims were 6.0% below the weekly average during the five years (2003-2007) prior to the recession and almost one-quarter (23.6%) less than the weekly average during the recessionary years of 2008-2009.

Continuing claims (chart 4), that is individuals receiving regular weekly benefits, were virtually unchanged (+1.0%) in the week ended February 9, 2013. 

Ongoing claims have been trending downward since the post-Sandy peak at the end of November.  When seasonal factors are taken into account, continuing claims are below both the pre-storm and year-ago levels. 

Assuming normal seasonal patterns, ongoing claims should continue to decline into the Spring.

The State’s insured unemployment rate (IUR), the number of beneficiaries as a percent of total covered employment, stood at 4.2%, the same as in 2012’s comparable week. 

In sum: Applications for unemployment insurance benefits in New Jersey are slightly below the pre-recession average; a level associated with stable or modestly rising employment.  Although continuing claims remain elevated in Sandy’s aftermath, the total is trending downward consistent with the usual seasonal pattern.

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