February 9, 2012

Unemployment Claims: 358K, Down from Revised Way-Up 373K In Previous Week; NSA Claims 398K, Down 10% from 2011 (Updates: A Smaller Pool, and Historical Perspective)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:14 am

From the Department of Labor:


In the week ending February 4, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted (SA) initial claims was 358,000, a decrease of 15,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 373,000. The 4-week moving average was 366,250, a decrease of 11,000 from the previous week’s revised average of 377,250.

… UNADJUSTED DATA (i.e., not seasonally adjusted, or NSA — Ed.)

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 397,810 in the week ending February 4, a decrease of 24,477 from the previous week. There were 440,706 initial claims in the comparable week in 2011.

The upward revision to last week’s initial 367,000 was 6,000.

Business Insider’s email predicted 370K. If the previous week’s upward revision is the same, today’s 12K beat will be cut in half. If the average during the past 48 weeks I’ve been tracking the data holds, it will be cut by one-third.

Differences in seasonal factors between last year and this year aren’t significant.


UPDATE: A sober-up observation: Readers who go to the interactive table and selects a year range going back to 2008 will see that “covered employment” (the pool of workers from whom unemployment claims can be received when they are laid of or let go without cause), was 133.08 million during the last reported week of September 2009, just 28-plus months ago, and three months after the recession officially ended.

That number is not very far from the all time high of 133.91 million, which was the reading as of the end of 2008. It dropped to a low of 125.56 million a year ago, and has since barely rebounded to its current 126.58 million.

The point? The pool of workers who can even file for unemployment claims is 5% lower than it was just over two years ago (the 6.5 million difference between 133.08 million and 126.58 million divided by 133.08 million). That factor in and of itself means that today’s reading of 358,000 is the equivalent of a 376,000-claim reading when the employment situation was better, which nullifies any potential claim that a reading as low as today is a valid indicator of a strong recovery — and yes, it means that the snarky comment that employers have fewer people to lay off who are eligible for unemployment compensation (the snark is that “they are running out of people to lay off”) has some validity.

UPDATE 2: Historical perspective — The interactive table, which has data going back to 1967, shows that at the end of June 1984, 31 months after November 1982, the month the Reagan-era recession ended, instead of decreasing by the 5% and 6.5 million seen during the Obama era, covered employment increased by 3.46 million (or 4%) from 86.93 million to 90.39 million.

This is more evidence of the point I made in yesterday’s PJ Media column, which is that “the administration’s policies during the past three years have continued to generate a combination of rampant demoralization and ‘going Galt’ which has handicapped the economy and seriously harmed the lives of millions of individuals and families.”


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