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posted on 26 May 2016

21 May 2016 Initial Unemployment Claims Rolling Average Again Worsened. Rolling Averages Remain Higher Than Levels One Year Ago.

Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims

The market expectations for weekly initial unemployment claims (from Bloomberg) were 270,000 to 275,000 (consensus 275,000), and the Department of Labor reported 268,000 new claims. The more important (because of the volatility in the weekly reported claims and seasonality errors in adjusting the data) 4 week moving average moved from 275,750 (reported last week as 275,750) to 278,500. The rolling averages generally have been equal to or under 300,000 since August 2014.

It should be pointed out that Econintersect watches the year-over-year change on the 4 week moving average. There is always some seasonality which migrates into the seasonally adjusted data, and year-over-year comparisons helps remove some seasonality. The four week rolling average of initial claims are 1.5 % higher (better than the 1.9 % for last week) than they were in this same week in 2015.

Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims - 4 Week Average - Seasonally Adjusted - 2011 (red line), 2012 (green line), 2013 (blue line), 2014 (orange line). 2015 (violet line), 2016 (light blue)

Claim levels are at 40 year lows (with the normal range around 350,000 weekly initial unemployment claims of levels seen historically during times of economic expansion - see chart below).

From the Department of Labor:

In the week ending May 21, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 268,000, a decrease of 10,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 278,000. The 4-week moving average was 278,500, an increase of 2,750 from the previous week's unrevised average of 275,750. There were no special factors impacting this week's initial claims. This marks 64 consecutive weeks of initial claims below 300,000, the longest streak since 1973.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.6 percent for the week ending May 14, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending May 14 was 2,163,000, an increase of 10,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up 1,000 from 2,152,000 to 2,153,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,151,250, an increase of 8,500 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 2,142,500 to 2,142,750.

Steven Hansen

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