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Weekly Claims Drop to 451,000, 4-Week Moving Average at 478,000; Where to From Here?

Weekly Claims Drop to 451,000, 4-Week Moving Average at 478,000; Where to From Here?

Courtesy of Mish 

Weekly Claims fell this week to 451,000 but that number is still consistent with an economy losing jobs.

Please consider the Unemployment Weekly Claims Report for September 9, 2010.

In the week ending Sept. 4, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 451,000, a decrease of 27,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 478,000. The 4-week moving average was 477,750, a decrease of 9,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 487,000.

Unemployment Claims

The weekly claims numbers are volatile so it’s best to focus on the trend in the 4-week moving average.

4-Week Moving Average of Initial Claims

The 4-week moving average is still near the peak results of the last two recessions. It’s important to note those are raw numbers, not population adjusted. Nonetheless, the numbers do indicate broad, persistent weakness.

4-Week Moving Average of Initial Claims Since 2007

No Lasting Improvement for 8 Months

There has been no lasting improvement since December 2009, eight months ago. The above chart is slightly off, the Fed has not updated the series yet today. The last data point is at 451,000.

To be consistent with an economy adding jobs coming out of a recession, the number of claims needs to fall to the 400,000 level.

At some point employers will be as lean as they can get (and still stay in business). Yet, that does not mean businesses are about to go on a big hiring boom. Indeed, unless consumer spending picks up, they won’t.

Questions on the Weekly Claims vs. the Unemployment Rate

A question keeps popping up in emails: "How can we lose 400,000+ jobs a week and yet have the unemployment rate stay flat and the monthly jobs report show gains?"

The answer is the economy is very dynamic. People change jobs all the time. Note that from 1975 forward, the number of claims was generally above 300,000 a week, yet some months the economy added well over 250,000 jobs.

Also note that the monthly published unemployment rate is from a household survey, not a survey of payroll data from businesses. That is why the monthly "establishment survey" (a sampling of actual payroll data) is not always in alignment with changes in the unemployment rate. At economic turns the discrepancy can be wide.

With census effects nearly played out, It may be quite some time before we weekly claims drop to 400,000 or net hiring that exceeds +250,000.

Want to know why some businesses aren’t hiring? Please consider Creating Jobs Carries a Punishing Price

Where To From Here?

Three weeks ago there was a weekly claims print above 500,000. That number will roll off the 4-week moving average next week.

Assuming another 451,000 print next week, the 4-week moving average would be about 465,000 – a decline of another 12,000 or so. Even still, the number will nothing to crow about. Moreover, I am still expecting lots of state cutbacks so that could have an impact. However, claims have been generally in 450,000 range for 8 straight months of sideways movement so we can easily see more of the same.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock


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