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posted on 19 January 2017

14 January 2017 Initial Unemployment Claims Rolling Average Improvement Continues

The market expectations for weekly initial unemployment claims (from Bloomberg / Econoday) were 252 K to 260 K (consensus 255,000), and the Department of Labor reported 234,000 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 257,000 (reported last week as 256,500) to 246,750. 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 97 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 12.9 % lower (improvement from the 7.7 % for last week) than they were in this same week in 2015.

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 January 14, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 234,000, a decrease of 15,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 2,000 from 247,000 to 249,000. The 4-week moving average was 246,750, a decrease of 10,250 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since November 3, 1973 when it was 244,000. The previous week's average was revised up by 500 from 256,500 to 257,000. There were no special factors impacting this week's initial claims.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.5 percent for the week ending January 7, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending January 7 was 2,046,000, a decrease of 47,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up 6,000 from 2,087,000 to 2,093,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,090,000, an increase of 1,750 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 1,500 from 2,086,750 to 2,088,250.

Steven Hansen



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