First time unemployment claims rose by 5,311 in the week ended December 18. That compares with a rise of 9,860 in the third week of December 2009. The chart shows that the normal seasonal uptrend is at a lower trend level than the past two years. The same is true of the insured unemployment rate. However, that may be misleading because it uses a base number comprised of a 6 month average from the period ended in June. Because fewer people are eligible, the actual rate should be higher.
Because new claims are limited to those eligible, part of the reduction in new claims is due to the millions of persons losing eligibility. To account for that, the next chart shows new claims as a percentage of those eligible. Here the improving trend shows evidence of leveling off. The normal seasonal spike at the beginning of January needs to hold around .053% to keep the downtrend from the peaks of the past 2 years intact. The green line connects the most recent week (December 18) with the same week in prior years.
The Department of Labor calculates the total number of covered employees quarterly, using a 6 month average. The current figure is based on data from the first half of 2010, which is not very useful now. However, it does imply that much of the drop in continuing claims has come from those losing eligibility.