The number of people filing for first-time unemployment benefits fell sharply in the week ending Dec. 27, according to a report released Wednesday by the Labor Department.
The advance figure for initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits came in at 492,000, a decrease of 94,000 from the previous week’s unrevised figure of 586,000. It is the first time claims were below 500,000 since the week ended Nov. 1, when the government reported 481,000 initial claims. Still, continuing claims – which provide some indication of workers’ ability to find employment, increased to 4.506 million, an increase of 140,000 from the preceding week’s revised level of 4,366, which exceeded the 4.4 million continuing claims that were expected. This was the highest increase since the week ended Dec. 4, 1982, when continued claims were 4.509 million. The elevated level of jobless applications show once again the rapid deterioration the labor markets and the broader economy have experienced in recent months.
The advance unadjusted insured unemployment rate was 3.4% during the week ending Dec. 20, unchanged from the prior week.
The Labor Department indicated that the largest increases in initial claims for the week ending December 20 were in California (+20,866), Kentucky (+13,337), Michigan (+8,160), Missouri (+7,091), and Indiana (+6,795), while the largest decreases were in Massachusetts (-4,016), Georgia (-3,525), New Jersey (-1,866), Tennessee (-1,649), and Illinois (-1,194).
During this year the economy has lost more than 2.6 million jobs, pushing the country’s unemployment rate up to 6.7%. Many economists expect the rate to advance well above 8% during fiscal ’09.