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posted on 22 December 2016

17 December 2016 Initial Unemployment Claims Rolling Average Worsens Again

Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims

The market expectations for weekly initial unemployment claims (from Bloomberg / Econoday) were 250 K to 260 K (consensus 256,000), and the Department of Labor reported 275,000 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 257,750 (reported last week as 257,750) to 263,750. 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 improved this week. This marks 94 consecutive weeks of initial claims below 300,000, the longest streak since 1970. The general trend of the 4 week rolling average is a slowing rate of improvement year-over-year which historically suggests a slowing economy.

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 3.8 % lower (degradation from the 5.6 % 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 December 17, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 275,000, an increase of 21,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 254,000. The 4-week moving average was 263,750, an increase of 6,000 from the previous week's unrevised average of 257,750. There were no special factors impacting this week's initial claims. This marks 94 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 December 10, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending December 10 was 2,036,000, an increase of 15,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up 3,000 from 2,018,000 to 2,021,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,037,000, a decrease of 1,750 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 750 from 2,038,000 to 2,038,750.

Steven Hansen



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