Reclaiming Common Sense

Seriously Good Unemployment Claims Data.

The general trend for unemployment claims has been downward since January 2009. The weekly claims report data used to be bottom of the hour headline news as it was heading to, and below, 300,000 seasonally adjusted (SA) first-time unemployment (FTU)  claims. The non-seasonally adjusted (NSA) FTU claims data fell under 200,000 claims last week. This was the second lowest ever NSA FTU value for the fourth week of April. A second component of the weekly report is the continuing claims (CC) data. The NSA CC value last week was the lowest recorded, for the third week of April, since 1970. Remember that we have over 140 million "covered insured" workers right now and that during the same time during 1971 we had roughly 53.2 million covered insured. There is no data for 1967 through 1970 on covered insured. We have nearly 3 times as many covered insured and a comparable number of first-time and continuing claims. The first-time unemployment claims "streak"is continuing, even if it is an economic urban legend. So what happened this week?

First-time Unemployment Claims Recorded at 190,084. The value that was reported, if it was reported, was 211,000 seasonally adjusted first-time unemployment claims. The data for last week was revised up from 186,041 to 186,451. The week prior to that , April 21, was revised slightly higher from 200,065 to 200,139. Could it fall below 175,000 this month?

The seasonally adjusted data could have been reported under 210,000. Once again, under 300,000 SA FTU was considered healthy. Under 250,000 should be considered vibrant and receiving headlines. The 211,000 level is being actively ignored. We almost fell to the level recorded during the first week of May 1968. The SA FTU value could have been reported higher than it was, that is true. The "streak" continues. It have been interesting that the streak hasn't been mentioned in the weekly report for months. Meanwhile, the authors of the report continue to print the line "Claims taking procedures in Puerto Rico and in the Virgin Islands have still not returned to normal."

Continuing Claims Recorded a Drop and Reported an Increase in Claims. The NSA CC value was recorded at 1,719,741, down from last week's upwardly revised value of 1,738,876. Last week's SA CC value was 1.760 million. This week the SA CC value was reported at 1.790 million. Down is up in Governmentland this week. The NSA CC value for April 14th was revised higher from 1,864,511 to 1,865,447. We have rarely had a level under 2 million NSA CC since November 18, 2000. How low can this value fall? Last year the low was 1.566 million claims.  Can we drop below 1.542 million by November?

The continuing claims data gives us some insight as to what to expect from the monthly Employment Situation U-3 level. We will have to wait two more weeks to receive the NSA CC value with the collection date closest to the employment situation collection date. The two surveys are different. The Current Population Survey data measures those who say that they are unemployed. The continuing claims data measures those who have been unemployed and are still receiving benefits. Some people may have lost seasonal jobs or part0time jobs that do not provide unemployment benefits.

It's the economy.