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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Weekly Unemployment Claims: Week Ending September 2, 2017

Claims for Unemployment Benefits Jump

Thanks to Hurricane Harvey, initial claims for unemployment benefits increased by about 61,000 in seasonally adjusted numbers, 53,000 in unadjusted "real" numbers.

Notice the big hockey stick increase in the right at this graph from the Department of Labor:

From the Department of Labor

This is a huge increase, and almost all of those extra claims came from Texas.  I would think there will be another jump from Harvey next week and we will also see claims from Florida and Puerto Rico jump due to Irma.  We won't know how much these weather disasters will impact the economy at large and the labor market at large for several weeks.

Comparing the Impact of Harvey to the Impact of Hurricane Katrina?

Back in September 2005 initial claims jumped about 100,000 claims in the first three weeks after Katrina, but they came down after that.  Continued claims jumped about 300,000 in the first three weeks after Katrina hit, but then started to decline.

Houston is a bigger area and Harvey was a larger hit than was Katrina in New Orleans.  We can expect at least a 100,000 spike in initial claims over the next few weeks, and at least a 300,000 spike in continued claims over the next month.  

(Continued weekly claims are reported a week behind initial claims, so this week's report did not show an increase in continued claims.)

How Many People Are Getting Laid Off In Recent Weeks?

The insured unemployment rate, meaning the number of people who are collecting on unemployment claims as a percentage of the number of people working in jobs in which employers are paying into the unemployment insurance fund, continues to decline and is the lowest EVER, a path on which it started back in 2016.

The number of people getting laid off and filing for unemployment benefits is still, apart from the recent increase due to Harvey claims, at record-breaking lows.  We have not had sustained 4-week averages of new unemployment claims in the 230,000 to 240,000 range since mid 1973.

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