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Initial Claims Flat While Continuing Claims Fall Lower

First time claims for unemployment insurance were unchanged at 351,000 for the week ended February 18, following upward adjustments for numbers recorded the previous week which represented a four-year record low. The ""U.S. Department of Labor"":www.dol.gov/ also reported that continuing claims fell 52,000 ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô the fourth drop observed during the first six weeks of the year.


The initial claims report covered the ""reference week"" used by the ""U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics"":www.bls.gov/ in developing the organization's monthly Employment Situation Summary. Initial claims were flat, suggesting a ""yellow flag"" for what economists have anticipated would be another positive employment report, which will be released March 9. The employment report reflects net activity ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô the result of hirings and firings ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô not the


components, and a slow down in lay offs affected one part of the computation.

First time continuing claims, which are reported on a one-week lag, have been below 3,400,000 since August 2008. The most recent decline recorded in ongoing claims is likely the result of individuals getting jobs or losing their qualifications. Total claims including emergency and extended federal programs fell 178,619 to 7,502,791 for the period, while extended claims ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô based on individual state unemployment rates ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô increased.

Portions of the overall decline can be attributed to the expiration of benefits which is exacerbated when newly signed unemployment benefits legislation takes effect, but that said, initial claims have been on a steadily declining trend since September of last year, meaning the pace of layoffs continues to slow. Taken together with the continuing and extended claims, these statistics indicate that the labor market is steadily - if slowly - improving. However, a lot of slack in employment still exists, and the U.S. continues to evaluate the sustainability of the declines, since a similar dip from early February through the end of March 2011 was suddenly reversed during April.

According to the Labor Department's details, which is also reported on a one-week lag, the largest increases in initial claims for the week ending February 11 were in Massachusetts (+853), Puerto Rico (+352), Nebraska ( +345), Hawaii (+ 85), and Rhode Island (+69), while the largest decreases were in California (-8,462), Pennsylvania (-3,789), New York (-2,429), North Carolina (-2,199), and South Carolina (-1,538).

About Mark Lieberman

Mark Lieberman is the former Senior Economist at Fox Business Network. He is now Managing Director and Senior Economist at Economics Analytics Research. He can be heard each Friday on The Morning Briefing on POTUS on Sirius-XM Radio 124.

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