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posted on 30 March 2017

25 March 2017 Initial Unemployment Claims Rolling Average Again Worsens

The market expectations for weekly initial unemployment claims (from Bloomberg / Econoday) were 243 K to 255 K (consensus 247,000), 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 246,500 (initially reported last week as 240,000 but the seasonal adjustment factors were revised) to 254,250. 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 106 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 5.1 % lower (worse than the revised 7.3 % 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 25, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 258,000, a decrease of 3,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 261,000. The 4-week moving average was 254,250, an increase of 7,750 from the previous week's unrevised average of 246,500.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.5 percent for the week ending March 18, an increase of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending March 18 was 2,052,000, an increase of 65,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised down by 3,000 from 1,990,000 to 1,987,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,030,750, a decrease of 1,250 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since June 24, 2000 when it was 2,028,250. The previous week's average was revised down by 750 from 2,032,750 to 2,032,000.

Steven Hansen



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