Claims for Unemployment Benefits in Nevada Decline in December - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

Claims for Unemployment Benefits in Nevada Decline in December

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In December, 20,526 initial claims were filed in Nevada, compared to 22,147 in December 2011.  That is a 7.3 percent decrease over the year, the 34th time in the past 37 months that claims have been lower than the year before, said Bill Anderson, chief economist for Nevada's Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR).

 Initial claims peaked during the recession at 36,414 in December 2008, and the low point for initial claims was 13,932 in September 2012. Over the past four years, initial claims have fallen 44 percent as the Nevada economy continues to recover from the recession, Anderson said. In recent months initial claims have been nearly flat over the year, but this decline suggests that there may be further room for unemployment claims to decline. In 2012, Nevada averaged a decline in initial claims of 6.3 percent over the year, which is the smallest decline of the past three years.

"Though claims are declining, the slowing pace of declines remains an indication that unemployment benefit activity may be stabilizing at a somewhat higher level than in the past," Anderson said. "This continues to suggest that while Nevada's economy is recovering, it is not yet returning to the economic boom of the years preceding the recession. On the other hand, initial claims also fell from November to December, a very unusual event which last happened in 1972. Typically initial claims rise due to seasonal factors from November to December.  While this is only a single data point, we will continue to monitor claim activity to see if this is a sign of more rapid improvement in the economy."

An initial claim represents the first stage of filing for unemployment benefits, and is therefore most closely related to the number of people entering into unemployment.  Initial claims tend to increase on a seasonal basis during the fall and winter months, and then fall during the spring and summer, Anderson said.

Other measures of unemployment claim activity, including the number of initial claims that qualified for payment, the number of weekly claims, and the number of people exhausting available benefits were mixed positive and negative changes in December.

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From Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR)

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The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell to a five-year low last week, a hopeful sign the job market is healing. But much of the decline reflects seasonal volatility in the data.

Weekly unemployment benefit applications fell 37,000 to a seasonally adjusted 335,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's the lowest level since January 2008, just after the recession began.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell to 359,250.

The applications data can be uneven in January. Job cuts typically spike in the second week of the month as retailers, restaurants and other companies lay off temporary workers hired for the winter holidays.

Last week, the layoffs weren't as large as expected, a department spokesman said. That caused a steep drop in the seasonally adjusted data.

Overall, applications remain at a level that suggests employers are hiring at a slow but steady pace. Applications fluctuated between 360,000 and 390,000 for most of last year. At the same time, employers added an average of 153,000 jobs a month.

That's just been enough to slowly push down the unemployment rate, which fell 0.7 percentage points last year to 7.8%.

Employers added 155,000 jobs last month, nearly matching the average for the year. December's steady job gain suggests employers didn't cut back on hiring in the midst of the debate over the tax and spending changes known as the fiscal cliff. Many economists feared that the prospect of higher taxes and steep cuts in federal spending would cause a slowdown in job gains.

That's a good sign, since more budget showdowns are expected. Congress must vote to raise the government's $16.4 trillion borrowing limit by sometime between mid-February and early March. If not, the government risks defaulting on its debt. Republicans will likely demand deep spending cuts as the price of raising the debt limit.

The overall economy grew at an annual rate of 3.1% in the July-September quarter. But economists believe activity slowed considerably in the October-December quarter to a rate below 2% or less, in part because companies cut back on restocking. (AP)

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