May 24, 2012

As Usual, Press Fails to Note How Last Week’s Jobless Claims Were Revised Upward

Last week, what the Department of Labor had originally reported as a dip in unemployment claims the previous week (from 368,000 to 367,000) was revised into an increase (to 370,000). This week, what DOL originally reported was a no-change situation (i.e., 370,000) was revised into an increase (to 372,000).

It’s getting ever more difficult to accept DOL’s ongoing underestimations, which now run to 60 of the 61 most recent weeks I’ve been able to track (the one exception was a “no change” situation during the week ended June 18, 2011). In covering today’s charade, Reuters, Bloomberg, and the Associated Press (aka the Administration’s Press), all failed to note that this week’s revision to last week turned last week into an increase instead of a no-change. In what should be seen as only a marginal improvement, two of the three (the AP, predictably, was the exception), headlined this week’s small initial reduction from last week — which seems destined to disappear after revision next week — as “essentially unchanged.” Excerpts follow the jump.

Here’s Reuters, unbylined:

Jobless claims little changed last week

New claims for unemployment benefits fell slightly last week and demand for long-lasting manufactured goods edged up in April, suggesting the economy continued to expand at a moderate pace.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 370,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The four-week moving average, considered a better measure of labor market trends, dropped 5,500 to 370,000.

Claims have barely budged in the past four weeks indicating a marginal improvement in the pace of job creation after April’s disappointing 115,000 gain in nonfarm payrolls.

The wire service said nothing at all about the revision to last week.

Bloomberg’s Alex Kowalski at least noted the existence of the revision to last week, but not its direction:

Jobless Claims In U.S. Little Changed At 370,000 Last Week

The number of Americans filing first- time claims for unemployment insurance payments was little changed last week, adding to evidence the labor market recovery may have paused.

Applications for jobless benefits decreased by 2,000 to 370,000 in the week ended May 19 from a revised 372,000 the prior week, Labor Department figures showed today. The initial claims matched the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of economists. The number of people on unemployment benefit rolls and those receiving extended payments dropped.

The sluggish progress in unemployment claims, which have retreated from an almost four-year low earlier this year, coincides with job creation that has also lost steam. Absent fewer firings, companies in the U.S. may not ramp up hiring to levels leading to bigger payroll growth.

Naturally, the Associated Press was the only one of the three which headlined this week’s inconsequentially different and unlikely to last figure as a dip:

Weekly US jobless aid applications dip to 370,000

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits changed little last week, signaling modest job growth.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications for benefits dipped by 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 370,000.

Applications have leveled off this month after declining from April’s five-month high of 392,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, has also dropped – it was 370,000 last week.

The lower level suggests hiring could pick up a bit in May from April’s sluggish pace. When applications drop below 375,000 a week, it typically suggests hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

As I wrote this morning about AP’s pet proposition concerning the magic of the 375,000 claims threshold:

Though it’s not particularly relevant to the job market as it exists in the real world (thanks to the extraordinary number of discouraged and on-the-sidelines adults who would like to be working), the AP’s contention that claims consistently under 375,000 should lead to a lower unemployment rate, made in this case by Christopher Rugaber, will get tested next week.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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