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posted on 01 September 2016

27 August 2016 Initial Unemployment Claims: Rolling Averages Again Slightly Improve

Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims

The market expectations for weekly initial unemployment claims (from Bloomberg / Econoday) were 263,000 to 287,000 (consensus 265,000), and the Department of Labor reported 263,000 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 264,000 (reported last week as 264,000) to 263,000. The rolling averages generally have been equal to or under 300,000 since August 2014.

Analyst Opinion of Initial Unemployment Claims

The trend of the 4 week moving average is relatively flat indicating there is no employment or unemployment dynamic that is changing. The trend of year-over-year improvement of initial unemployment claims is moderating - and this trend historically indicates a weakening GDP.

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 4.7 % lower (improvement from the 3.7 % 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 August 27, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 263,000, an increase of 2,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 261,000. The 4-week moving average was 263,000, a decrease of 1,000 from the previous week's unrevised average of 264,000. There were no special factors impacting this week's initial claims. This marks 78 consecutive weeks of initial claims below 300,000, the longest streak since 1970.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.6 percent for the week ending August 20, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending August 20 was 2,159,000, an increase of 14,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 2,145,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,159,750, an increase of 4,500 from the previous week's unrevised average of 2,155,250.

Steven Hansen



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