1st Time Unemployment Claims Edge Down as Continued Claims Again Drop

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist


  • There were 222,000 1st time claims for unemployment insurance for the week ended February 17, a DECREASE of 7,000 from the prior week;
  • The number of initial claims for the week ended February 10 was REVISED DOWN 1,000 to 229,000
  • The four-week moving average of first time claims DECREASED 2,250 to 226,000;
  • Four week moving average represented 0.147 percent of employment, DOWN from 0.148 percent one week earlier;
  • The number of continued claims –individuals who have been collecting unemployment insurance, reported on a one-week lag – for the week ended February 10 was 1,875,000, DOWN 73,000 from the previous week’s UPWARDLY REVISED 1,942,000;
  • The four-week moving average of continuing claims DECLINED 16,250 to 1,926,500;

Data Source: Department of Labor 


  • Since mid-January, the four-week moving average of first time unemployment insurance claims is down 17,500, the largest mid-month to mid-month decline since October;
  • Continued claims have decline year-year for 422 straight weeks, more than eight years!

Image result for unemployment insurance claims

Another week, another solid report on unemployment insurance claims. While the number of first time claims is positive news, the ongoing decline in the number of continued claims speaks volumes about the strength of the labor market.

Though the drop in continued claims has been irregular, the trend is clearly downward since continued claims peaked at 6,628,000 in May 2009, arguably one of the more difficult times to get a job during the Great Recession. Since then, the milestones have been frequent: under six million in September 2009, under five million just three months later, under four million in January 2011, under three million in May 2013 and under two million last April.

The steady decline to be sure threatens to make the labor market even tighter which could slow the level of job creation. We’re already seeing the signs. Monthly job creation averaged 176,000 in the last 12 months, down about 15 percent from the previous 12 months.

One consequence of the tighter labor market we’ve yet to see is a general increase in wages. While hourly earnings rose in January at a 2.8 percent year-year rate – up from 2.6 percent in December—hourly earnings were up at 1 2.5 percent year-year rate, down from 2.9 percent in December as the average workweek fell back to 34.3 hours. Typically, an increasing workweek underscores the need for more workers while a declining workweek suggest just the opposite.

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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