Initial unemployment claims head down, slowly
The idea that regional labor markets are healing is supported by the following chart:
Because initial claims are a sign of emerging unemployment, we can say that declines are a sign of an improving unemployment situation—or, more precisely, of an employment situation that does not appear to be getting worse. That the initial claims are headed in the right direction is clear, but what is also evident is that we are still nowhere near pre-recession levels. In fact, the current level for the region is still 55 percent higher than it was in January 2006. This table shows the percent changes for individual southeastern states:
Florida's level is well above its January 2006 reading, as are the levels of Alabama and especially Georgia. Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee's levels are about 20 percent over their January 2006 readings. In fact, these latter three states have seen initial claims drop at a faster rate than the nation.
As a whole, the region's levels are still above comparable U.S. figures. Nevertheless, despite the wide divergences in the region, the initial claims of all southeastern states are moving in the right direction.
By Mike Chriszt, an assistant vice president in the Atlanta Fed's research department
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