August 23, 2018

Not News: Already Historically Low Unemployment Claims Rates Continue to Fall

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:41 am

Unemployment claims haven’t been in the news much. I wonder why? (No, not really.)

This morning’s release indicates that initial and continuing unemployment claims are running about 11 percent below the already historically low levels seen a year ago:


This week’s 213,750 four-week moving average of initial claims is only 0.1506 percent of  reported covered employment (people who have jobs who would eligible for unemployment benefits if laid off) of 141,951,699, slightly lower than the 0.1510 percent seen in mid-May. The four-week moving average of continuing claims, seen above in rounded form, is 1.22 percent (taking it out another decimal point).

The initial and continuing claims percentages seen since early May are the lowest ever since weekly records have been published going back to 1967. If the data could be reconstructed, we’d probably find that these percentages haven’t been as low as they’ve recently been since the World War II buildup in the early 1940s.

The lowest 4-week average for weekly claims was 179,000 in mid-May, 1969. But at the time, the covered workforce was about 50 million, meaning that weekly claims were about 0.36 percent of covered employment. That’s well over double the percentages of 0.15 percent or so seen since May. Similarly, while not as impressively, the record low mid-June 1969 four-week average of 843,000 continuing claims was about 1.7 percent of covered employment, which is significantly greater than the 1.1 percent and 1.2 percent figures seen recently.

Meanwhile, the broadcast press has almost completely lost interest in covering unemployment claims. If you’re lucky, you’ll see them get a passing mention on CNBC and Fox Business.

As 10:20 a.m. ET Thursday morning, even the Associated Press didn’t have a jobless claims story in its list of 50 recent business items at (Reuters does have one). The Federal News Radio site’s listing of recent AP business stories also had no indication that the wire service covered today’s unemployment claims release.

But the AP did find space to headline a seasonally adjusted new-home sales drop of 1.7 percent in July. It took the wire service’s Josh Boak a couple of paragraphs to note that year-to-date sales are running 7.2 percent ahead of last year. He also failed to report that July’s seasonally adjusted figure was 13 percent higher than July 2017.


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