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posted on 16 March 2017

11 March 2017 Initial Unemployment Claims Rolling Average Again Marginally Worsens

The market expectations for weekly initial unemployment claims (from Bloomberg / Econoday) were 240 K to 250 K (consensus 242,000), and the Department of Labor reported 241,000 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 236,500 (reported last week as 236,500) to 237,250. 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 insignificantly worsened this week. This marks 105 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 8.5 % lower (marginally worse than the revised 9.0 % 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 March 11, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 241,000, a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 243,000. The 4-week moving average was 237,250, an increase of 750 from the previous week's unrevised average of 236,500.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.5 percent for the week ending March 4, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending March 4 was 2,030,000, a decrease of 30,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up 2,000 from 2,058,000 to 2,060,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,054,250, a decrease of 11,750 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 500 from 2,065,500 to 2,066,000.

Steven Hansen



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