1st Time Claims for Unemployment Insurance Edge Up

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist


  • There were 234000 1st time claims for unemployment insurance for the week ended August 19, 2,000 MORE than the previous week;
  • The number of initial claims for the week ended August 12 was UNCHANGED at 232,000;
  • The four-week moving average of first time claims FELL 2,750 to 237,750 or 0.155 percent of total employment;
  • The number of continued claims – reported on a one-week lag – for the week ended August 12 was 1,955,000, unchanged from the previous week’s upwardly revised (by 1,000) number;
  • The four-week moving average of continuing claims DROPPED 2,750 to 1,957,500;

Image result for unemployment claims

The increase in first time claims for unemployment insurance for the week ended August 19, as the Department of Labor reported Thursday probably less significant than the stable continued claims figure, 1,954,000.

Continued claims, of course, represent those individuals who’ve been receiving and continue to receive unemployment insurance. Though that number for the week ended August 12 (this data series is reported on a one-week lag) is below what is was a year ago, 2,157,000, the number of continued claims remains stubbornly high. Indeed, despite declining in each of the last two weeks, the four-week moving average of continued claims remains close to its six-month high, even in what is considered a still-strong economy.

The data on continued claims reflects how successful those who are unemployed are in getting replacement jobs. It deals only with quantity not quality.

The two data series also provide insight into what next week’s (Friday September 1) Employment Situation might look like. From mid-July to mid-August both the number and four-week moving average of initial unemployment insurance claims fell, 2,000 and 3,500 respectively suggesting fewer layoffs than the prior month. At the same time both the number and four week moving average of continued claims also hinting hiring indeed picked up. The drop in the data for continued claims though followed two months in which the number and average of continued claims rose dramatically.

The continued claims series is a rough surrogate for hiring since getting a job is one of only three ways an individual drops out of the tally of those collecting unemployment insurance. The other reasons are that benefits or the individual expires. Since the rates of benefit expirations and death rates have been relatively constant, getting a new job is the most likely reason for the drop in continued claims.

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. You can follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

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