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posted on 22 September 2016

17 September 2016 Initial Unemployment Claims: Rolling Averages Again Improves

Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims

The market expectations for weekly initial unemployment claims (from Bloomberg / Econoday) were 258,000 to 265,000 (consensus 261,000), and the Department of Labor reported 252,000 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 260,750 (reported last week as 260,750) to 258,500. 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 now marginally trending down. On the other hand, the trend of year-over-year improvement of initial unemployment claims is moderating - and this trend historically indicates a weakening GDP. This marks 81 consecutive weeks of initial claims below 300,000, the longest streak since 1970.

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 5.7 % lower (improvement from the 4.9 % 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 September 17, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 252,000, a decrease of 8,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 260,000. The 4-week moving average was 258,500, a decrease of 2,250 from the previous week's unrevised average of 260,750. There were no special factors impacting this week's initial claims. This marks 81 consecutive weeks of initial claims below 300,000, the longest streak since 1970.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.5 percent for the week ending September 10, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending September 10 was 2,113,000, a decrease of 36,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up 6,000 from 2,143,000 to 2,149,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,140,250, a decrease of 8,000 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 1,500 from 2,146,750 to 2,148,250.

Steven Hansen



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