1st Time Unemployment Claims Hit Near 50-Year Low

 By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights

  • There were 210,000 1st time claims for unemployment insurance for the week ended February 24 a DECREASE of 10,000 from the prior week;
  • The number of initial claims for the week ended February 17 was REVISED DOWN 2,000 to 220,000
  • The four-week moving average of first time claims FELL 5,000 to 220,500;
  • Four week moving average represented 0.143 percent of employment, DOWN from 0.146 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 17 was 1,931,000, UP 57,000 from the previous week’s DOWNWARDLY REVISED 1,874,000;
  • The four-week moving average of continuing claims DECLINED 6,250 to 1,920,000;

Data Source: Department of Labor

Trends:

  • The number of initial claims for unemployment insurance dropped to its lowest level since the week ended December 6, 1969 (202,000);
  • The four-week moving average of 1st time claims fell to its lowest level since the period ended December 27, 1969 (219,750);
  • From mid-January to mid-February, initial claims rose 4,000 but the four-week moving average of initial claims fell 18,000;
  • Continued claims have declined 9,000 mid-month to mid-month while the four-week moving average of ongoing claims dropped 750.

 

Image result for unemployment insurance claims

The drop in initial claims from mid-January to mid-February reflects fewer layoffs as employers are reluctant to reduce staffing even with a pool of workers available. Whether this is because of a skills mismatch or fears of an impending cyclical change in the economy is difficult to determine.

Of course, one other explanation for the drop in first-time claims could be the Presidents’ Day holiday when offices which would process claims filed by phone or online were closed.

Last month’s Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation report showed a drop in the average workweek to 34.3 hours, the lowest since last March. The drop in weekly hours was one of the few blemishes in the BLS report for January.

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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