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posted on 21 September 2017

16 September 2017 Initial Unemployment Claims Rolling Average Continue Above Level One Year Ago

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma impacted this week's claims. The market expectations for weekly initial unemployment claims (from Bloomberg / Econoday) were 285 K to 325 K (consensus 303,000), and the Department of Labor reported 259,000 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 262,750 (reported last week as 263,250) to 268,750. The rolling averages generally have been equal to or under 300,000 since August 2014.

Analyst Opinion of Initial Unemployment Claims

This marks 131 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 4.7 % higher (far worse than the 1.7 % higher 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 September 16, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 259,000, a decrease of 23,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised down by 2,000 from 284,000 to 282,000. The 4-week moving average was 268,750, an increase of 6,000 from the previous week's revised average. This is the highest level for this average since June 4, 2016 when it was 269,500. The previous week's average was revised down by 500 from 263,250 to 262,750. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma impacted this week's claims.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.4 percent for the week ending September 9, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending September 9 was 1,980,000, an increase of 44,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised down by 8,000 from 1,944,000 to 1,936,000. The 4-week moving average was 1,953,000, an increase of 6,500 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised down by 2,000 from 1,948,500 to 1,946,500.

Steven Hansen



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