July 19, 2012

Reuters Thinks Big Unemployment Claims Jump Is a ‘Rebound’

In case you missed it (which wouldn’t be surprising given how quiet the press has been since the related report’s release, the Department of Labor reported that initial claims for unemployment rose to a seasonally adjusted 386,000 from a review (up, or course) 352,000 the previous week.

An unbylined Reuters report carried at CNBC (HT to an NB tipster) bizarrely described this result as a “rebound,” both in its headline and text:

Weekly Claims Post Rebound; Jobs Market Still in Doldrums

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rebounded last week, pushing them back to levels consistent with modest job growth after a seasonal quirk caused a sharp drop the prior period.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 34,000 to a seasonally adjusted 386,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior week’s figure was revised up to 352,000 from the previously reported 350,000.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 365,000 last week. The four-week moving average for new claims, a better measure of labor market trends, fell 1,500 to 375,500.

Claims data is volatile in July because of the timing of the annual auto plant shutdowns for retooling.

Automakers are not embarking on wholesale plant shutdowns, throwing off the model that the department uses to smooth the data for typical seasonal patterns.

The first bolded sentence is only true because last week’s number was so artificially low — not because of auto industry shutdown, but because, as explained this morning the seasonal deflation factor are so large (leading to a lower result than would have been seen if the same factors were used this year as last year.

The final bolded sentence would, if shutdown activity really is lower, cause you to expect claims should lower than they are.

Don’t ask me to try to make sense of this — except that, like so much other business reporting, it seems to minimize the actually negativity and deterioration that is really occurring.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.


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