Thursday, September 9, 2010

Weekly jobless claims post a decline UPDATED: Nine states didn’t report

In what’s sure to be touted as great news by the White House, Democrats and the state-run media, weekly jobless claims posted a modest decline last week:

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.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 3.5 percent for the week ending Aug. 28, unchanged from the prior week's unrevised rate of 3.5 percent.

The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending Aug. 28 was 4,478,000, a decrease of 2,000 from the preceding week's revised level of 4,480,000. The 4-week moving average was 4,488,000, a decrease of 3,250 from the preceding week's revised average of 4,491,250.

The revisions to last week’s release means that the reported 6,000 decrease was wiped out for the week ending August 28.  While any decrease in the number of newly unemployed is welcome news, the fact remains that 451,000 people joined the jobless ranks, and that number has barely budged since January 2010.

Typically, this data set indicates stability when its seasonally adjusted figures moves back and forth around a moving average.  Look at the period between January 2006 and late 2008, and there’s a very good example of a two-year period of a stable labor market.  The only problem is, claims were moving around a 300,000 average.  Today’s release showing an average of ~480,000 indicates a stable, but weak job market.

In other words, things don’t appear to be getting much worse, but they aren’t getting much better either, and there is absolutely nothing on the horizon that might point to a return to the Bush-era labor market.

UPDATE: Isn’t this interesting.  Via Bloomberg  is this little gem:


For the latest reporting week, nine states didn’t file claims data to the Labor Department in Washington because of the federal holiday earlier this week, a Labor Department official told reporters. As a result, California and Virginia estimated their figures and the U.S. government estimated the other seven, the official said.

I’m sure the bean counters did the best estimating job they could, but if we see some, uhh…  gyrations in next week’s data, will the news be “unexpected?”