Economic News

Year closes with unemployment claims up more than expected


Unemployment data can be volatile around holidays, but the U.S. Labor Department is reporting figures that fall short of economists’ expectations for the period.


Unemployment figures rise at the end of December

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, seasonally adjusted initial unemployment claims rose by 10,000 in the week ended Dec. 29, hitting 372,000 total. The Labor Department notes that the advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 495,588 in the week ending December 29, an actual increase of 40,459 from the previous week. The total increase was 10,000 more claims than the median estimate most economists had forecast for the period.

The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending December 15 was 5,402,987, a decrease of 68,727 from the previous week, the Labor Department reports, adding that there were 7,223,309 persons claiming benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2011.

Labor Department spokespeople note that unemployment claims are always difficult to track during the holiday season, as the data can be erratic. Because of this, many look to the four-week moving average of all unemployment claims, which changed very little from the previous week’s revised average of 360,000.

Unemployment numbers across America

States reported 2,065,706 persons claiming Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits for the week ending December 15th, the most recent reporting period offered by the Labor Department.

The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending December 15 were in Alaska (6.6), Puerto Rico (3.9), New Jersey (3.8), Pennsylvania (3.8), Montana (3.6), California (3.4), Nevada (3.4), Oregon (3.4), Connecticut (3.3), and Wisconsin (3.3).

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending December 22 were in Ohio (+8,795), Michigan (+6,641), Pennsylvania (+5,530), Kentucky (+4,745), and Massachusetts (+4,330), while the largest decreases were in California (-11,789), West Virginia (-473), Florida (-450), Arizona (-192) and South Dakota (-186).

While unemployment fell short of economists’ expectations, the data shows little change in December, but improvement compared to 2011.

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