Jack Dunn - Reclaiming Common Sense

Unemployment Claims - Up is Down, Again.

Not much has happened this week, with regard to economic data.  The weekly unemployment claims data was released - Up is Down in Governmentland. The two main data points are the Seasonally Adjusted (SA) First-time Unemployment (FTU) claims number and the SA Continuing Claims (CC) number. The administration has been promoting Unemployment claims FACTs (False Assertions Considered to be True) that we have had over 90 consecutive weeks of SA FTU claims under 300,000. The problem is that the seasonal factors used to convert the Non-seasonally adjusted (NSA) data to the SA data change by category, FTU or CC, week, month, season, and year. The same week of the year can have a different seasonal factor. The streak did not really start until this year andended during November.

We have had four consecutive weeks of SA FTU under 300,000 not 95 weeks. Ironically, we have had 4 consecutive weeks of NSA FTU claims over 300,000.

First-time Claims Jumped  by 25,000 people - Reported as dropping10,000. Down is up some weeks and up is down other weeks. This is still the lowest level of NSA FTU claims for this time of year during the past 16 years.  The elephant in the room is that we have an elevated level of part-time workers, at or near the highest levels ever, nearly every month. Part-time jobs do not garner unemployment benefits. We also have an elevated level, historic or near historic, of people working two part-time jobs, as well as two jobs (FT, FT or FT PT) nearly every month. People working two  jobs still have one job when they lose the other. Employed workers do not claim unemployment claims.

We have 6,000 fewer First-time Claims recorded this year than last year - reported as 20,000 fewer. Last Year we had 346,542 NSA and 285,000 SA FTU claims. This year we have 340,222 NSA and 265,000 SA FTU. That is the difference the Seasonal Factor (SF) makes on the data - reality. If we used last year's SF then we would have seen 282,000 SA FTU claims reported. This is still "good" for this time of year. It may not mean much to you if you lost a job or your only job and if there were no benefits.

Continuing Claims increased slightly - Reported as Increasing - How original. Last week's preliminary number was reported at 2,095,320 and revised up to 2,097,670. This happens regularly. This week's data, for the week ending 12/17/2016, jumped to 2,108,467. The SA CC went from 2.039 million to 2.102 million. We should see continuing claims increase through the middle of January.

Last January we saw a spike of over 500,000 NSA FTU claims during the second week of January. If we have a normal year the first-time claims number and the continuing claims number will continue to climb. They may be lower than what we saw during 2015 because of the elevated dual job workers and elevated levels of part-time job workers. It may even be better as more employers higher more part-time workers and fewer full-time workers, as a result of the full-time equivalent clause of the Affordable Care Act.

Next Friday we will see the release of the "Jobs Report." Research is being done on the Jobs Report forecast column right now. If all goes according to plan the graphics will be completed today and the column will be released tomorrow. The unemployment picture looks like there will be a slight uptick in U-3 unemployment. The bad news is that the NSA Full-time number should drop and the part-time number should increase. These will be seasonally adjusted into net job gains. Down in Up in Employment Situationland, too.

It's the economy.