Given that is has been six months since a full update of these unemployment graphs has been posted, please find the following graphs all updated with the latest available data.
– New claims for unemployment benefits have hit the beginning of their seasonal spike and are expected to remain at elevated levels through early January. Initial claims have continued to improve each of the past 3 years and are beginning to return to more normal levels, however they remain above strong expansion years’ levels.
– Claims relative to the size of the labor force (those who are employed or are looking for work) continue to improve. Their current level (November 2011) is the same as Oregon experienced during the whole 1990s and is nearly back down to levels seen during the 2000s’ expansion. Obviously the underlying mechanics are different today than during the 1990s or mid-2000s, however this improvement is still a relatively good sign as the number of layoffs continue to fall and more individuals are employed. (A major difference between today and the 1990s is the growth in the labor force. Over the past year, the labor force is essentially flat in Oregon while during the 1990s it was growing at 2 percent per year)
– Unemployment benefits paid to Oregonians continues to decline. As referenced in the 2011Q3 Personal Income post, this decline is contributing to the overall decline in Oregon Total Personal Income as individuals are losing their benefits either due to exhaustion or as they transition into employment.
– The exhaustion rate continues to decline (the percentage of individuals who collect unemployment benefits for all 26 weeks of the regular program), however the improvement in recent months is due to the decline in final payments, not first payments which have leveled off in 2011. This means that while the number of individuals who begin receiving benefits (not applying for but receiving weekly checks) has remained relatively steady this year, the percentage of those individuals who complete the full 26 week program is declining. Ideally this would indicate that unemployed individuals are transitioning to employment (leaving the smaller, weekly UI checks for hopefully larger paychecks), however given the lackluster monthly employment reports over the past six or so months, this cannot necessarily be confirmed by other data. File this under subjects to explore further. I will look into this issue and post any updates or findings that are relevant.