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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims Numbers Stabilize

First time unemployment claims decrease.

First time unemployment claims dipped slightly, but are now stable over the last couple of months, as shown by the attached chart.  From the current report:
In the week ending May 5, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 367,000, a decrease of 1,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 368,000. The 4-week moving average was 379,000, a decrease of 5,250 from the previous week's revised average of 384,250. 

A few comments:  1.  These are first time claims, so people who have continued to receive benefits or who are losing any unemployment benefits would not be 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.

The chart above is the BEST chart for understanding and observing changes in the weekly initial claims numbers over time.  This year (red-2012) and the past two years (green- 2011 and blue- 2010) are marked in different colors.  You can see that, as a trend, first time claims for unemployment have gone down SIGNIFICANTLY from one year to the next, even though there are variations within the year.  

You an also see that the April bulge, visible during the 1st-2nd week of April in all three years, has ended in 2012, with a return to first time claims levels of March.  For reference, the initial claims in April were around 260,000 in the year 2000, and about 300,000 in 2006 and 2007.  These are the lowest springtime initial claims numbers since 2008.

The weekly report also tells us the number of people who are receiving unemployment benefits.  For the week ending April 21st, 6,423,383 people are receiving unemployment benefits under one of the programs that is available (regular state, extended benefits, federal extended unemployment compensation, or a few other smaller programs).  This compares with 12,500,000 people who are unemployed according to the monthly April unemployment situation report which was released last week.  Those numbers, showing that only half 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.

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

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