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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims Increase Slightly (April 18th)

Weekly unemployment initial claims increased slightly this week after decreasing the week before.  

First time unemployment jobless claims increased slightly to 352,000  for the week ending April 13th.   This is a small increase of 4,000 claims.  Since the beginning of the year, new weekly claims have remained in the range of 330,000 to 360,000 for ten out of the fifteen weeks this year. 

The four-week moving average # of claims increased by 
2,750 last week after increasing by 3,000 the week before.  First time claims continue at about the same level that they were five years ago, in late 2007 to early 2008.  

(Even though these numbers are seasonally adjusted, weekly claims numbers are always a bit volatile and should  only be analyzed in terms of a trend over a period of weeks.  See the graph below.) 

For the week ending March 30th, 5,152,655 people were receiving unemployment benefits under one of the programs that are available (regular state, federal extended unemployment compensation, or a few other smaller programs).  This was a decrease of about 125,000 continuing claims since the previous week.  The number of continuing claims in ALL programs decreased for the week ending March 30th.  Continuing claims in the Federal Extended Unemployment Benefits program (the "Tiers") decreased  by 54,999 claims, and the number of continuing claims in the Regular State program (the first 20 to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits) decreased by 55,250.

1,600,000 FEWER 
people are receiving unemployment benefits now vs. one year ago.  We do not know what has happened to the people who are no longer receiving benefits; we do not know how many of those 1,600,000 people found employment, how many retired, etc.  We do know that there are 1,266,000 more people reporting themselves as employed than a year ago and there are  1,910,000 more non-farm jobs.  We also know that a grand total of 47,546,000 people have been hired between April 2012 and February 2013, the latest month for which numbers are available.  


The percent of unemployed people receiving benefits decreased to about 43.6% for the week ending March 30th.

If you are receiving benefits, you may be interested in these two reports:  

The chart above is one of the BEST charts for understanding and observing changes in the weekly initial claims numbers over time.  This year (red:  2012-13) and the past three years (blue:  2009-10green:  2010-11 and black:  2011-12) are marked in different colors.  You can see that, as a trend, first time claims for unemployment have declined from one year to the next, even though there are variations within the year.  You can also see the impact of Hurricane Sandy on claims in November 2012.  Though the number of initial unemployment claims has been variable over the past three months, it has continued a downward trajectory.  

Be aware that:
  1. The graph above shows first time claims, so people who have continued to receive benefits or who have lost unemployment benefits are not counted in these numbers.  
  2. They are seasonally adjusted, so most variations caused by weather or holidays are already included in these numbers.  
  3. As these are weekly numbers, they are more volatile than the monthly numbers.

First time unemployment claims increased by 4,000 over those reported last week.  Last week's initial claims numbers were revised upwards by 2,000.  There are usually slight upwards revisions  (1,000 to 3,000) in the numbers of initial claims in most weeks.  Numbers reported this week also reflected changes in seasonal adjustments announced last month.  (The chart above shows REVISED claims numbers.)

As usual, to put this into perspective, check out the red line on the chart above to see where jobless claims are now, in late 2012/early 2013, compared to the past three years.

From the current report:
In the week ending April 13, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 352,000, an increase of 4,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 348,000. The 4-week moving average was 361,250, an increase of 2,750 from the previous week's revised average of 358,500.
The initial claims as announced last week were 346,000, so the claims from that week were revised upwards by 2,000. 

Current February/March/April Initial Claims Continue to be the Lowest Since Late 2007/Early 2008.

As a whole, the current numbers of initial claims continue to be the lowest Winter-Spring initial claims numbers since late 2007/early 2008.

Continuing regular state claims, from people who are continuing to claim unemployment through the initial 20 to 26 week regular unemployment program, declined 35,000 for the week ending April 6th after decreasing 12,000 the week before.  3,068,000 people filed continuing regular state claims in the week ending April 6th.  As a whole, continuing regular claims continue to decline despite some individual weekly increases.  (There were 3,328,000 continuing claims a year ago.) 

Total number of people receiving unemployment insurance is 43.6% of the officially unemployed for the week ending March 30th.  

The weekly report also tells us the total number of people who are receiving unemployment benefits.  For the week ending March 30th, 5,152,655 people were receiving unemployment benefits under one of the programs that are available (regular state, extended benefits, federal extended unemployment compensation, or a few other smaller programs).  This compares with 11,815,000 people who are unemployed in unadjusted numbers according to the monthly March unemployment situation report which was released Friday, April 5th.  Those numbers, showing that only 43.6% of the officially unemployed are receiving benefits, should make it clear that people do NOT need to be receiving unemployment insurance to be counted among the unemployed.  (This ratio and these two numbers are NOT seasonally adjusted.)

Extended Benefits (EB) Only Available in Alaska

Extended Benefits claims were only available in Alaska during the week ending March 23rd.  

As of the week ending March 23rd, only 463 people were still receiving Extended Benefits, as mentioned above.  As recently as last April, 427,673 people were receiving Extended Benefits.

Therefore, over the last year, 99.9% of the people who were receiving Extended Benefits are no longer receiving such benefits.  We do not know how many of these 427,000 people found jobs, how many have another source of income in the family, and how many have nothing. 

To reiterate, while a decrease in the number of people FILING for initial claims is a good thing and indicates that fewer people are being laid off, a decrease in the TOTAL number of people getting unemployment insurance may only show that fewer people are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.

Any questions or confusion, please leave a comment or email me!

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