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posted on 27 October 2016

22 October 2016 Initial Unemployment Claims: Rolling Averages Marginally Worsen

Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims

The market expectations for weekly initial unemployment claims (from Bloomberg / Econoday) were 250 K to 262 K (consensus 255,000), and the Department of Labor reported 258,000 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 252,000 (reported last week as 251,750) to 253,000. 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 continuing to marginally worsened. The trend of year-over-year improvement of initial unemployment claims is moderating - and this trend historically indicates a weakening GDP. This marks 86 consecutive weeks of initial claims below 300,000, the longest streak since 1970. It is pretty hard for unemployment claims to continue to fall much further - nothing declines forever.

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 4.4 % lower (decline from the revised 5.9 % 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 October 22, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 258,000, a decrease of 3,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 1,000 from 260,000 to 261,000. The 4-week moving average was 253,000, an increase of 1,000 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 251,750 to 252,000. There were no special factors impacting this week's initial claims. This marks 86 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 October 15, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending October 15 was 2,039,000, a decrease of 15,000 from the previous week's revised level. This is the lowest level for insured unemployment since June 24, 2000 when it was 2,033,000. The previous week's level was revised down by 3,000 from 2,057,000 to 2,054,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,051,250, a decrease of 6,250 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since July 1, 2000 when it was 2,036,500. The previous week's average was revised down by 750 from 2,058,250 to 2,057,500.

Steven Hansen



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