December 2017 Initial Unemployment Claims Rolling Average Improves Marginally

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Hurricanes continue to impact claims taking procedures in the Virgin Islands. The market expectations for weekly initial unemployment claims (from Bloomberg / Econoday) were 234 K to 245 K (consensus 240,000), and the Department of Labor reported 238,000 new claims. The more important (because of the volatility in the weekly reported claims and seasonality errors in adjusting the data) 4 week moving average moved from 242,250 (reported last week as 242,250) to 241,500. The rolling averages generally have been equal to or under 300,000 since August 2014. 

Analyst Opinion of Initial Unemployment Claims

This marks 141 consecutive weeks of initial claims below 300,000, the longest streak since 1970. The general trend of the 4 week rolling average is a slowing rate of improvement year-over-year which historically suggests a slowing economy.

It should be pointed out that Econintersect watches the year-over-year change on the 4 week moving average. There is always some seasonality which migrates into the seasonally adjusted data, and year-over-year comparisons helps remove some seasonality. The four week rolling average of initial claims are 3.4 % lower (better than the 3.0 % lower for last week) than they were in this same week in 2016.

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Claim levels are at 40 year lows (with the normal range around 350,000 weekly initial unemployment claims of levels seen historically during times of economic expansion - see chart below).

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From the Department of Labor:

In the week ending December 2, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 236,000, a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 238,000. The 4-week moving average was 241,500, a decrease of 750 from the previous week's unrevised average of 242,250. Claims taking procedures continue to be disrupted in the Virgin Islands. Claims taking process in Puerto Rico has still not returned to normal.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.4 percent for the week ending November 25, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending November 25 was 1,908,000, a decrease of 52,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up 3,000 from 1,957,000 to 1,960,000. The 4-week moving average was 1,912,750, an increase of 1,000 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 750 from 1,911,000 to 1,911,750.

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