Unemployment Claims Limbo - How Low Can They Go?


There has been a considerable amount of discussion about things that do not impact use directly. The weekly unemployment claims report gives us relatively "up to the minute" assessments of the economy. What is missing is an understanding of how they work. The authors of the report have been pushing the concept that the changes in the unemployment levels have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey and Irma, and now they will say that Hurricane Maria has impacted the unemployment numbers.

  • Hurricane Harvey made landfall  Friday August 25th
  • Hurricane Irma made landfall twice Sunday September 10
  • Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico Wednesday September 20th

The weekly claims data collection date is Saturday. This week the end of the collection period was September 23rd. You normally have to be unemployed for one week to receive benefits, and those benefits start being distributed during your second week of unemployment.  Will we see a spike next week due to Irma? Even if someone in Puerto Rico could be eligible for benefits this past Saturday, would they have been able to make application? Will we see a spike in Puerto Rico Next week or the following week or "at all?"


Disaster Unemployment Assistance is available for parts of Texas, parts of Florida, and for Puerto Rico. Disaster Unemployment Assistance is different from standard unemployment insurance. The DUAP covers self-employed workers, workers unable to get to work, workers injured in the storm who are unable to work, and for those who lost their head of household and are now the head of household and are out of work, to name a few of those covered by DUAP who would not normally be covered by regular unemployment insurance. There has been no delineation of the DUAP claims, to date, in the weekly reports.

You can also check with FEMA of the general DUAP site for more information. There has been discussion of DUAP availability in the local media for Texas and Florida,I have not seen much reported in the national news.


This Week First time Claims - were they 215,000, 272,000 or 275,000.The non-seasonally adjusted data for September 9, 2017 were downwardly revised from 212,284 to 211,366. This was the second downward revision from the preliminary value that was reported two weeks ago. Last week's data was revised slightly higher to 212,962. The seasonal factors used to covert the non-seasonally adjusted data to the reported seasonally adjusted data changed this week. What should have been reported as 272,000 SA FTU was reported as 275,000 SA FTU. The website that used to provide data back to 1967, including the new seasonal factors through the end of the year, is down. The index of previous reports is missing. Something is wrong.


The First-time Claims Level could have been reported as low as 264,000. The seasonal factors change from week to week, month to month, season to season, and year to year. When seasonally adjusted data from different seasons are compared FACTs (False Assertions Considered to be True) are created, and often reported. If you look at the 1967 to date NSA FTU graph you will see that the fourth week of September 2015 was recorded lower than this year. Also, the fourth week of September 1970was recorded higher than this week - with 87,000,000 fewer claimants than we have right now.  There were 52.8 million insured employed during the fourth week of September 1971. This week there were 139,989,708. How low can we go?


This week Continuing Claims  fell to 1.642 million. The data from two weeks ago, September 9, were revised downward for the second time, and now stand at 1,699,014. We are seeing continuing claims as low as we normally see during the first week of October.  We need to look at the third week of September data for continuing claims because the continuing claims data lags the first-time data by one week. We had fewer claims this week than the second week of October 1999. How low can this level drop? Could it drop to 1.56 million as it did during the first week of November 1988? Will anybody report it?


The Continuing Claims Level should have been reported under 1.92 million instead of 1.934 million. The seasonal factors for the third week of September has not changed. Will the fourth week of September factors change from what was published? Will the Department of Labor start publishing the data again? We are at levels not seen since the third week of September 1970 - again with at least 87 million fewer potential claimants.


We are not seeing "any" impact to the unemployment claims data from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, or Maria. "Nobody" is reporting the data . Nobody knows how to say that this is the lowest unemployment claims data seen during this time of the year during the past 46 years.


Could we really be seeing the lower first-time unemployment claims data for the fourth week of September of 2017 lower than the same week during 1970 and nobody cares? Could the continuing claims data for the third week of September be lower than the third week of September 1970 and nobody cares? Are people missing out on the Disaster Unemployment Assistance Program benefits available for Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico?


Watch this site for employment and unemployment data as it pertains to Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico as it becomes available.


It's the economy.

Jack Dunn - Reclaiming Common Sense