1st Time Unemployment Claims Up due to Irma

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist


  • There were 272,000 1st time claims for unemployment insurance for the week ended September 23 – UP 12,000 from the prior week;
  • The number of initial claims for the week ended September 16 was REVISED UP 1,000 to 260,000;
  • The four-week moving average of first time claims ROSE 9,000 to 278,500 – highest since May 2016 –or 0.184 percent of total employment.
  • The number of continued claims – reported on a one-week lag – for the week ended September16 was 1,934,000, DOWN 45,000 from the previous week’s number, which was revised down 1,000 to 1,979,000
  • The four-week moving average of continuing claims DROPPED 2,750 to 1,949,750.

Image result for unemployment insurance

Hurricane Irma, as expected, tore through the unemployment insurance data boosting, first time claims to 272,000 – after what proved to be a temporary respite one week ago, the Department of Labor reported Thursday. Despite raging through Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Island Hurricane Maria appeared to have no impact on the numbers.

Initial claims filings in Florida jumped more than 80 percent for the week ended September 23 as that state continued to recover from the storm but word out of Florida is reports on the Florida Keys will resume operation this weekend. Initial claim filings in Texas fell just over 29 percent from the previous week and filings in Louisiana dropped almost 10 percent. First time claims in the U.S. Virgin Island more than doubled from the prior week while initial claims filing dropped in Puerto Rico as most residents there were cut off.

It should take a few weeks for this data series to calm in the walk of the storms which should also ripple through to the Employment Situation release due next week from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS takes pains to try to avoid dramatic disruptions in its jobs and unemployment report.

In the establishment survey, which tracks the number of jobs, the reference period is the pay period that includes the 12th of the month. For severe weather conditions to reduce employment estimates, employees must be off work without pay for the entire pay period. Employees who receive pay for any part of the pay period, even 1 hour, are counted in the payroll employment figures. Unusually severe weather is more likely to have an impact on average weekly hours than on employment.

In the household survey, the reference period is generally the calendar week that includes the 12th of the month. Persons who miss the entire week’s work for weather-related events are counted as employed whether they are paid for the time off.  The household survey collects data on the number of persons who had a job but were not at work due to bad weather. The normal “rules” apply to consider an individual unemployed: out-of-work, available-for-work and looking-for-work.

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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