Unemployment Claims Data Again Show Modest Dip

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist


  • There were 216,000 1st time claims for unemployment insurance for the week ended December 15, a DECREASE of 1.000 from the prior week’s upwardly revised report (214,000 to 217,000)
  • The four-week moving average of first time claims DECLINED 4,750 to 218,000;
  • Four week moving average represented 0.139 percent of employment, DOWN from 0.142 the previous week.
  • The number of continued claims – individuals who had been collecting unemployment insurance — reported on a one-week lag, was 1,701,000 for the week ended December 8, DOWN 4,000 from the previous week’s upwardly REVISED 1,705,000 (from 1,688,000);
  • The four-week moving average of continued claims FELL 1,000 to 1,675,750.


  • First-time claims as a percentage of total employment is down from 0.153 percentage a year ago;
  • The number of continued claims declined for the just the second time since the beginning of November, a hint that hiring from the ranks of the unemployed may be slowing;
  • The four-week moving average of continued claims fell for the first time in seven weeks;

Data Source: Department of Labor

Image result for unemployment claims

The Federal Open Market Committee’s insistence in its statement last following that job gains “have been strong” may prove again to be prescient based on tea leaves from the weekly report on claims for unemployment insurance.

Understanding the key word in the previous sentence is “may,” the weekly report not on new claims for unemployment benefits but continued claims showed the first drop since the beginning of November. Continued claims represent those individuals who remain on the unemployment rolls. A decline in that number suggests an improvement in hiring – at least of the previously unemployed.

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey noted an increase in hiring but that was for October since that report has even a longer lag. We have seen a slowdown in new jobs in the monthly Employment Situation report. The report for November showed 155,000 new jobs that month, down sharply from 237,000 in October.

As to the upcoming Employment Situation Report (for December), the surveys which make up the report were conducted as usual before the government shutdown but analysts who dig into those surveys were not working.

The 16-day shutdown in October 2013 came during the reference week for which data were collected for the report issued at the beginning of November. The current shutdown began after the reference week. It had no impact on hours worked or average hourly and weekly earnings since those figures are private sector only.

The federal government represented about 2.8 million of the 149.8 million jobs reported in the most recent (November) employment situation report.

As to those tea leaves, the four -week moving average of first time unemployment insurance claims dropped 4,000 from mid-November to mid-December pointing to yet another decline in unemployment and perhaps the reported unemployment rate since in November the rate actually dipped from October’s 3.74 percent to 3.67 percent. With rounding, the rate for each month was reported as 3.7 percent. The four-week moving average of continued claims also declined, about 1,000 suggesting a bump in hiring.

You can hear Mark Lieberman every Friday at 6:20 am on the Morning Briefing on P.O.T.U.S. radio @sxmpotus, Sirius-XM 124.

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