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New Jobless Claims: Down 10K, Better Than Forecast

May 26, 2016

by Jill Mislinski

Here is the opening statement from the Department of Labor:

In the week ending May 21, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 268,000, a decrease of 10,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 278,000. The 4-week moving average was 278,500, an increase of 2,750 from the previous week's unrevised average of 275,750.

There were no special factors impacting this week's initial claims. This marks 64 consecutive weeks of initial claims below 300,000, the longest streak since 1973. [See full report]

Today's seasonally adjusted 268K new claims, down 10K from last week's 278K, was below the Investing.com forecast of 275K. As the report notes, this the 64th consecutive week of claims below 300K.

The four-week moving average is at 278,500 up 2,750 from last week's number.

Here is a close look at the data over the past few years (with a callout for the past year), which gives a clearer sense of the overall trend in relation to the last recession and the volatility in recent months.

Unemployment Claims since 2007

As we can see, there's a good bit of volatility in this indicator, which is why the 4-week moving average (the highlighted number) is a more useful number than the weekly data. Here is the complete data series.

Unemployment Claims

The headline Unemployment Insurance data is seasonally adjusted. What does the non-seasonally adjusted data look like? See the chart below, which clearly shows extreme volatility of the non-adjusted data (the red dots). The 4-week MA gives an indication of the recurring pattern of seasonal change (note, for example, those regular January spikes).

Nonseasonally Adjusted Claims

Because of the extreme volatility of the non-adjusted weekly data, we can add a 52-week moving average to give a better sense of the secular trends. The chart below also has a linear regression through the data. We can see that this metric continues to fall below the long-term trend stretching back to 1968.

Nonseasonally Adjusted 52-week MA

Annual Comparisons

Here is a calendar-year overlay since 2009 using the 4-week moving average. The purpose is to compare the annual slopes since the peak in the spring of 2009.

Yearly Overlay

For an analysis of unemployment claims as a percent of the labor force, see our recent commentary What Do Weekly Unemployment Claims Tell us About Recession Risk? Here is a snapshot from that analysis.

Initial Claims to the CLF


Here's our complete list of monthly employment updates:

ADP Employment Report

Employment Situation Summary

Labor Market Conditions Index

Long-Term Trends by Age Group

Aging Work Force

Ratio of Part Time and Full Time Employment

Multiple Jobholders

Workforce Recovery Since Recession

Civilian Labor Force, Unemployment Claims, and the Business Cycle