Unemployment Numbers: What You Should Know

If there's an economic recovery going on, someone forgot to tell the US workforce. There were 471,000 new claims for unemployment benefits last week -- that's 25,000 more than the week before. That's also the highest number of new unemployment claims in three months, according to the US Labor Department. The number of new claims had been consistently declining over the past four weeks, and analysts had expected more of the same. The surprise caused spirits, and stocks, to drop.

In a nutshell, here are the most important nuggets of information that you need to know about the latest information released by the Department of Labor Statistics:

  • The highest insured unemployment rates were in Alaska (6.4 percent), Puerto Rico (6.0), Oregon (5.6), Nevada (5.0), California (4.9), Pennsylvania (4.6), Wisconsin (4.6), Montana (4.5), Idaho (4.4), North Carolina (4.4), and Washington (4.4).

  • The largest increases in initial claims were in California (+8,351), Michigan (+3,175), New Jersey (+2,362), Georgia (+2,333), and Puerto Rico (+1,362).

  • The largest decreases in initial claims were in New York (-3,144), Kentucky (-2,193), Connecticut (-1,512), Missouri (-1,031), and New Hampshire (-607).

  • Extended benefits were available in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

  • Last week, 40,000 fewer people claimed insured unemployment benefits. This does not necessarily mean that they found jobs, however -- their benefits might have run out, and some might have decided just to stop looking and retire. The total number of people receiving benefits dropped from 4,665 to 625,000.

  • In the last analyzed quarter, the number of job gains from opening and expanding private sector establishments was 6.3 million, a decrease of 124,000 new jobs compared to the previous quarter

  • The number of gross job losses from private sector closing and contracting establishments fell to 7.3 million in the same quarter, which is 739,000 less than the previous quarter, and the largest over-the-quarter decrease in job losses since the series began in 1992.

  • Over this same period, job losses exceeded job gains in all industry sectors except utilities and education and health services.

We're obviously not out of the woods yet, but analysts have been telling us all along that recovery was going to be a long, slow process. Try to look at this as a correction -- two steps forward, one step back.

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