Reclaiming Common Sense

 If Good News is Recorded and Not Reported Did It Really Happen?

Insured Unemployment Rate at just 1.00%


The weekly unemployment claims report used to garner bottom of the hour headline status as the seasonally adjusted claims level dropped from 500,000 to 400,000 to 300,000. The discussion shifted to the number of consecutive weeks under 300,000 SA FTU. Fifty. Sixty. Seventy. Eighty. Presidential election. Crickets. That streak is approaching 250 consecutive weeks. The continuing claims streak and the insured Unemployment Rate streak are still alive. Crickets.


First-time Claims recorded a rise to 236,724. This was anticipated. First-time claims bump higher from here through the first week of January. If you look at the data you might be concerned that this is the highest level for the second week of November since 2015. There were 7 million fewer covered insured during 2016, 4.2 million fewer covered insured during 2017, and 2.1 million fewer covered insured during November 2018.


The First-time Unemployment Rate was just 0.16% - Tied for a Record Low for this week of the year. The FUR is something that this column has started to promote. The lowest that this had ever been was 0.17% during September 1999. The FUR during this week 2016 was just 0.16%. The FUR allows us to compare data from roughly the same time of the year while "adjusting" for covered insured growth. The FUR during 2017 and 2018 were both 0.17%. We are still in a good place.


Seasonally Adjusted First-time Claims rose to 225,000.  The seasonally  adjusted FTU popped to 225,000, up from 211,000. Last year we had 223,000 SA FTU for the same week of the year. Cassandras (foretellers of doom) will say that this is a canary in the coal mine. They have to consider that we have 2.1 million more covered insured and that the SA FTU is only up 2,000 claims. That said...


We are approaching the 250th week with the SA FTU at or below 300,000 claims. The under 300k streak started March 7, 2015. The headline SA FTU was reported under 300,000 during September 2 of 2017, at and was recorded at 250,226 claims and reported at 298,000 claims. The "final" value for 9/2/17 was recorded at 250,621 and reported at 298,000 claims. Right now the NSA FTU is still 250,621 while the SA FTU is exactly 300,000. Why change the SA FTU without changing the underlying data? We need six more weeks to hit 250 weeks.


Continuing Claims rose slightly to 1.442 million claims.  Last week we had 1,423,655 claims. This week we recorded 1,442,434 claims.  The Cassandras will say that this is higher than last year. It is. There are 5,800 more claims this year than the first week of November last year. Again, we have 2.1 million more covered insured this week than the same week last year. The 5,800 claims is a typical revision for the continuing claims data.


The Seasonally Adjusted Continuing Claims data was reported under 2 million for the 134th consecutive week.  Crickets in the media because there are crickets in the report. This streak started April 1, 2017.


The Insured Unemployment Rate (IUR) was recorded at 1.00%.  This was the eighth consecutive week with claims at or under 1.00%. Last year was the first year where the IUR dropped below 1.00%. That happened seven times last year. Another record ignored.


The best form of unemployment insurance is a second job. We are at the second highest level of multiple job holders (MJH) during the month of October. We normally hit "peak MJH" during November or December. Even if the MJH workers lose a Full-time Job, most likely a seasonal FT job, they still should have one job. We may see our smallest spike this January. It is an election year. Campaign staffs will be expanding. Advertising staffs will be expanding. Ignore the weekly claims data at your own peril.


This column has been writing articles all year asking how low can the first-time claims data fall, how low can the continuing claims data fall, and how low can the IUR fall. There will "always" be a certain amount of people who are unemployed and collecting unemployment benefits. We were within 100,000 claims of a 46 year old record of 1.252  million (10/6/73) when we were at 1.350 million (10/4/18) and 1.369 million (10/5/19.) Could the NSA FTU claims level fall below 350,000 during the first week of January for the first time since the program started during January 1967. Last year we had 350,949 claims. January 1967 we had 346,000 claims. How low can we go? Or will the sheer size of the covered insured workforce push the level slightly above 351,000 claims?


It's the Economy.