"Economists are pessimists: they've predicted 8 of the last 3 depressions."
--Barry Asmus

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Jobless Claims

This is, of course, the weekly report examining how many people claimed unemployment insurance for the first time that week (and then also looking at how many people are continuing to claim benefits for the week).  This is an important report for the simple fact that it provides a week-by-week examination of job losses, which gives substantial clues about the overall employment situation in the US.  Also, since consumer spending is between 1/3 and 1/2 of GDP, it is a hopefully promising sign if new claims are low and continuing claims decline[1].
Now, for the week ending 2/26, we saw 368,000 new jobless claims.  The Econoday-surveyed analysts are looking for a small increase, to 385,000 for the week ending 3/5.  The actual figures come from the US Department of Labor, where the current press release shows disappointing results.  The new jobless claims figure for the week ending 2/26 was revised upwards to 371,000, and the figures for 3/5 show 397,000 initial claims (missing expectations).  Looking at unadjusted numbers, 406,096 people filed first time unemployment insurance claims (up 52,147 from the preceding week).
There is a two week delay in looking at the state program insured unemployment level.  For 2/26 the level was a seasonally-adjusted 3,771,000 (down 20,000 from the previous week).  However, looking at the unadjusted number of continuing claims, we have a level of 4,442,438 (which is the number of people actually on the UI rolls, and is up 97,576 from the previous week).  As of 2/19, the number of people claiming benefits in all programs (not just state programs) was 8,772,818.
[1]  I say hopefully, because this report does not examine the cause of a decline in continuing claims.  There are two ways to no longer be making continuing claims on unemployment insurance;  either find work (meaning you no longer need unemployment insurance) or run out of benefits (meaning you are no longer qualified to receive unemployment insurance).  So, while a decline in continuing claims could mean that people are getting back to work, it could also mean that people have been out of work for 99 weeks or longer.

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