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

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims Report

Also known as "jobless claims", this is the Department of Labor's weekly report on... wait for it... how many people are applying for unemployment insurance.
I'll bet you would never have guessed that, from the name.  Right?
thats a joke son
Anyway, back to being serious about this.  The Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims Report is a lagging report, providing information for the previous week.  It discusses both new claims and continuing claims, on a raw data and a seasonally adjusted level.  Analysts love this report (when they don't hate it), because it's another snapshot of the health of the economy.  Declining new jobless claims imply fewer layoffs, and declining continuing jobless claims imply people getting back to work[1].
And what are the analysts thinking of this week.  Well, last week there were 388,000 claims for the week ending April 21.  This week, the Econoday-surveyed analysts are looking at the initial claims to fall to 378,000.  So, they're feeling optimistic.  But are they justified in this feeling?  Let's find out.
Looking at the report, we find that the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims for April 28 is 365,000 - substantially beating estimates.  On the downside, the seasonally adjusted claims for April 21 have been revised upwards to 392,000[2].  The advance figure for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment for April 21 was 3,276,000, down 53,000 from April 21's revised level of 3,329,250.
Turning to the unadjusted numbers[3], the advance figure for actual initial claims for April 28 came in at 330,475, a drop of 40,158 from April 21.  And the total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending April 14[4] is 6,597,492, down 85,523 from April 7.
So really, except for the upwards revision of April 21's figures, this was a heaping helping of good news to start the morning out.
[1]  Or running out of benefits.  But we'll look at that when we cover the Employment Situation tomorrow.
[2]  This happens frequently.  Why anyone gets excited about the initial figures is beyond me, really.
[3]  A quick word about "seasonal adjustment" vs.. "unadjusted numbers":  The unadjusted numbers are the raw numbers.  The total number of actual claims.  Seasonal adjustment is "a statistical method for removing the seasonal component of a time series that is used when analyzing non-seasonal trends" (to quote Wikipedia).  the idea is that, if you remove spikes and dips created by seasonal events (such as the massive increase in employment around Thanksgiving, when the seasonal employees get hired), you can get a more accurate idea of trends.  I'm not certain I agree, but I'm also not a statistician.  So take my skepticism with a degree of skepticism.
[4]  Yeah.  This particular component is on a two-week delay.

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