The Data Behind Last Week's 'Wild' Initial Claims

October 15th, 2012
in Op Ed, syndication

Written by John Lounsbury

Henry Blodget at Business Insider wrote that he had gotten to the bottom of the mysterious jobless claims report. Blodget said that he had learned from a mountain-molehillSMALLsource at the Department of Labor that California had likely not reported all the initial unemployment claims for the week reported last Thursday and that there would be increased claims in coming weeks as a result. Business Insider added an update to that post reporting that California's Employment Development Director said they had submitted the data on time. Another spokesperson for the state said that some typical seasonal job changes may have been delayed because of the weather.

Econintersect has looked at the data to see what is unusual about last week's report from California.

Follow up:

The following graph shows the weekly initial unemployment claims for California (blue), the 4-week (red) and 10-week (green) moving averages, and the linear trend line for 2012 data.



  • The data for last week shows no unusual deviation from the pattern for the year.
  • There has been a consistent pattern of week-to-week volatility in the data.
  • Of the 42 weeks so far in 2012, 30 have been farther from the linear trend line than last week.
  • The trendline shows weak correlation to the wildly fluctuating data, which surprisingly good considering the volatility.

A second graph has been plotted that shows the year-to-year changes in the data. Note: The BLS is missing data for the week of July 7.


As in the week-to-week change data, nothing unusual has occurred.

It may well be that weather has delayed some seasonal lay-offs in California. Business Insider estimated that these could be 15,000 to 25,000 in number. If these show up in the next few weeks, or even if they all show up this week, unless there are other sources of initial claims the California data will stay well within the range that has existed in 2012.

The way people react to data they do not study (not referring to Henry Blodget who presented a very rational review and analysis) never ceases to amaze me. Conspiracy theorists seem to have an obsessive-compulsive disorder about mole hills and mountains.

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1 comment

  1. Jeff Miller says :

    This is a level-headed, first-rate analysis. Investors need to focus on data. The spin machine is all about politics.

    Regardless of our political preferences, we need to understand what is actually going on.

    This article is very helpful on that front!



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