Reclaiming Common Sense

Unemployment Claims Data isn't Unbelievable - It is Remarkable

The Weekly Unemployment Claims Report used to be "Must See TV" at 8:30 AM on most Thursdays for eight or more years. The data that received attention was the seasonally adjusted (SA) weekly first-time unemployment (FTU) data. If it was over 300,000 claims - it was bad news - if it was under 300,000 claims its was good news. The second piece of data that might receive attention is the SA Continuing Claims (CC) number. The real data, the non-seasonally adjusted (NSA) FTU and NSA CC data are all but ignored anywhere else other than in this column. The seasonal factors used to convert the NSA data to the SA data change by category, FTU or CC, week, month, season and year. When SA data from different seasons and different years are compared FACTs (False Assertions Considered to be True) are created. n The truth is that we have historically low NSA FTU and NSA CC datum. What was reported, what was recorded, in this week's report?

The First-time Claims ticked up - Reported - if Reported - as Dropping. The first-time claims data fro the week of June 3rd was revised up from 212,189 to 212,270 claimants. This is lower than any other time, for this week of the year, since 2000. This is one of the lowest levels since the inception of the unemployment benefits program . It is important to note for both the NSA FTU data and the NSA CC data that during the week of May 29, 1971 there were 53,150,200 claimants. This week there are 139,505,637 claimants. We have comparable data to 1971 with 86 million more claimants.

When will we record First-time Claims under 200,000? We have had claims under 200,000 as recently as September of 2015 and September of 2016. You would have heard this if you were reading this column or its sister site. We may see first time claims drop below 200,000 this September. Will we see a number under 175,000 recorded?

Continuing Claims Remain lower than 2000 levels, again. The data stays remain under 1.8 million claimants. Last week's data was revised higher from 1.742 million to 1.753 million claims.

Continuing Claims Remain Lower than May 29, 1971.  This story has been quietly reported elsewhere. The problem is that we need this news spread far and wide. We have such a low level of continuing claims that it is a "non-story."

The problem is that the press relies upon a report. Whatever the report says is what the story is. The data is the story. We have remarkably low levels of NSA FTU claims. The NSA FTU claims feed into the continuing claims data. If we do not have FTU claims we "can't" have continuing claims. The weekly data is a more accurate representation of the unemployment situation than the Current Population Survey data on unemployment. This past month we saw the NSA CPS U-3 unemployment level tick slightly higher by 17,000 workers to 6.572 million. This is going unreported. The CPS unemployed are people who are out of work, seeking work, and most do not receive benefits. There are almost 5 million unemployed workers seeking work who are not receiving benefits.  We may see unemployment rise as more people seek work. We may see U-3 unemployment rise more than the weekly claims data would indicate. This is the problem of multiple data sets.

We are recovering. Unemployment is near historic lows for continuing claims data. The media appears to be tired of winning. This is remarkable - I could go on and on regarding the unemployment situation. I could go on and on regarding the problems with the short attention span of the media. I could remark day and night on the jobs data, the CPI data, the Retail Sales data, the housing data. If I were to say that it was unbelievable then I would be saying that not even I believed in the data. The non-seasonally adjusted data is remarkable. The seasonally adjusted data is unbelievable.

It's the economy.