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posted on 16 February 2017

11 February 2017 Initial Unemployment Claims Rolling Average Insignificantly Worsens

The market expectations for weekly initial unemployment claims (from Bloomberg / Econoday) were 242 K to 250 K (consensus 246,000), and the Department of Labor reported 239,000 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 244,750 (reported last week as 244,250) to 245,250. 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 iinsignificantly worsened this week. This marks 101 consecutive weeks of initial claims below 300,000, the longest streak since 1970. This is the lowest level for this average since November 3, 1973 when it was 244,000. 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 9.2 % lower (worse than the revised 11.8 % for last week) than they were in this same week in 2016.

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 February 11, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 239,000, an increase of 5,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 234,000. The 4-week moving average was 245,250, an increase of 500 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 500 from 244,250 to 244,750.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.5 percent for the week ending February 4, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending February 4 was 2,076,000, a decrease of 3,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up 1,000 from 2,078,000 to 2,079,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,080,250, an increase of 4,250 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 2,075,750 to 2,076,000.

Steven Hansen



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