Jobless Claims Hold at Historic High

Seasonally-adjusted initial unemployment claims came in at 627,000 for the week ending Feb. 14, unchanged from the week before, according to weekly data released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor. The four-week moving average, a steady indicator of seasonal trends, showed a 10,500-claim increase to 619,000, suggested an increased state of joblessness overall. The seasonally-adjusted insured unemployment rate rose slightly to 3.7 for the week ending Feb. 7. The largest increases in unadjusted initial claims for the week ending Feb. 7 occurred in Kentucky  (with an additional 8,419), Arkansas (with an additional 4,142), Illinois (with an additional 3,630), Texas (with a 3,392-claim rise) and Missouri (with 3,217 more claims). The largest decreases in unadjusted initial claims occurred in California (which was down 5,249), Tennessee (with 1,718 fewer claims), Iowa (with 1,413 claims less), Connecticut (with 1,267 fewer) and South Carolina (with 1,059 less claims), according to the data. The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending Jan. 31 occurred in Michigan with 8.1 percent, Idaho and Oregon with 7 percent each, Pennsylvania with 6.4 percent, Wisconsin with 6.3 percent, Nevada with 5.9 percent, Alaska with 5.8 percent, Montana with 5.6 percent and Indiana with 5.5 percent. The historic unemployment claims highs have sparked a number of relief efforts. On Feb. 5, the Department of Labor announced a $22 million grant to assist rank-and-file workers affected by financial industry layoffs in the New York, Connecticut and New Jersey area. “Due to the crisis in the financial system, thousands of people lost their jobs through no fault of their own,” said acting secretary of Labor Edward Hugler. “The services provided through this grant will assist front line and back office workers in getting back to work as soon as possible.” Layoffs, in combination with falling home prices, have often been linked to the sweeping rate of foreclosures. Advocates of a housing stimulus have long argued the merit of relief for laid off workers finding themselves unable to make mortgage payments. Such borrowers represent a portion of the intended recipients of the $75 billion Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan announced Wednesday by President Barack Obama. The plan aims servicer-implemented loan modifications and government-subsidized rate cuts to increase payment affordability for homeowners at risk of falling behind on their mortgages. Write to Diana Golobay at

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