Jack Dunn - Reclaiming Common Sense

How Low Can the Claims Data Go?


The weekly unemployment claims data rarely receives more than a brief mention in the press. What used to be the most anticipated number of the week is now an economic oddity. The data that is most relevant to most people are the non-seasonally adjusted (NSA) first-time unemployment (FTU) claims number and the NSA Continuing Claims (CC) number. What is reported in the media is seasonally adjusted (SA) FTU and CC data. The seasonal factors used to convert the NSA data to the SA data change by category, week, month, season and year. When data from different seasons are compared FACTs (False Assertions Considered to be True) are created. One last thought before looking at this week's data: There is a program available to those who have lost jobs during the recent Hurricanes who would normally not qualify for unemployment benefits, the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program. Check your to see if your county is eligible for the DUAP program.


First-time Claims Fell to 206,000 - Non-seasonally Adjusted. The rest of 'the world' used top obsess over the seasonally adjusted data. The 'rest of the world' used to obsess over the number of consecutive week below 300,000 seasonally adjusted first-time unemployment claims.  We have rarely ever been below 200,000 NSA FTU claims. We almost did it again! We had fewer claims during the fifth week of September 2017 than we had during the third week of September 1974. Let that digest.


Serious Historic data for Fifth (Final) week of September. We do not always have a "fifth Saturday." We had fewer NSA FTU claims last year, and yet if you compare the final week of September 1970 with this year we have fewer SA FTU and fewer NSA FTU - with over 80 million more potential claimants.


Continuing Claims for the Fourth Week of September lower than what we normally seen during October or November, non-seasonally adjusted.  The continuing (CC) claims data lags the FTU claims data by one week. We are seeing data that we normally see during the first week of October or the first week of November. We have two more collection dates to hit the first week of October. We are already at comparable levels seen during October of 1999 and October 1978.  We have fewer continuing claims than we had for the fourth week of 1971. We have only 40,000  more continuing claims than we had during the fourth week of 1970.


There are a Million fewer Continuing Claims than the Fourth Week of September 2012. If you look at the data table that focuses on three low periods in our history you will see that we have 1.2 million fewer claimants this week than during the same week of September 2012. We have 100,000 fewer continuing claims than the same week of 2000.


The Hurricane Effect - Driving Claims Down? The authors of this week's report are proclaiming that Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria are impacting the report data this week. Combined, the collection dates for this report are September 9, 16, 23, and 30.

  • Harvey: Landfall August 24th
  • Irma: Landfall: September 10th
  • Maria: September 20th

It is true that we should be seeing the impacts of Harvey and Irma in the data. We could be seeing the impacts of Maria if expedited DAU insurance claims is taking place. The "problem" is that the notes for the report indicate that First-time Claims in Puerto Rico for the week ending September 30th are down from September 23rd by 174 claims. How can continuing claims be dropping from from 1.735 million to 1.637 million claims between  September 9th and September 23rd if Irma is having an impact on the data? It is going to take two weeks for the continuing claims data to impact the continuing claims data - so maybe next week. There is zero comment on the DAU program in the weekly reports.


The economy is doing really well if you look at the weekly claims data. That is a big "if." Last week the weekly unemployment claims article was the most read article of the week. Share this information with those you know in Florida, Texas, or Puerto Rico. Share it with your Twitter friends. Share it with your Facebook friends.  The data is "historically" good. It is "hysterical" to state that the hurricanes are impacting the claims data as they continue to be at or near 47 year lows.


It's the economy.