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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Weekly New Claims Numbers Pop Up

March 2013 reports will be released Friday, April 5th.  Check back then!

Weekly unemployment initial claims popped back up this week after a downward trajectory for the past month.  Unemployment claims have increased two out of the last five weeks. 

First time unemployment jobless claims increased to 357,000  for the week ending March 23rd.   This is an increase of 16,000 but it the first time in a month in which weekly first time initial claims popped above 350,000.  It is unclear whether or not this is a trend, as the Department of Labor also readjusted seasonal adjustments with this week's report.  Weekly claims numbers to date showed that employers were NOT laying people off in response to the sequester.  It's really too soon to tell if this week's claims numbers have any meaning other than the usual weekly volatility.

The four-week moving average # of claims increased by 
2,250 after decreasing by 6,250 last week.  First time claims continue at about the same level that they were 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 9th, 5,455,757 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 an increase of 86,750 continuing claims since the previous week.  The increase in continuing claims occurred in the Federal Extended Unemployment Benefits program (the "Tiers") whereas claims in the Regular State program (the first 20 to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits) decreased 40,000.

Percent of Unemployed People Receiving Benefits decreased to about 43.6% for the week ending March 9th.

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 16,000 over those reported last week.  Last week's initial claims numbers were revised upwards by  5,000. in seasonally adjusted numbers, but they were only revised upwards by about 1,800 in unadjusted numbers.  There are usually slight upwards revisions  (1,000 to 3,000) in the numbers of initial claims in most of the weeks of the past several months.  Numbers reported this week also reflected changes in seasonal adjustments.  (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 March 23, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 357,000, an increase of 16,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 341,000. The 4-week moving average was 343,000, an increase of 2,250 from the previous week's revised average of 340,750.
The initial claims as announced last week were 336,000, so the claims from that week were revised upwards by 5,000. 

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