1st-time Unemployment Insurance Claims Edge Up Again

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist


  • 229,000 1st time claims for unemployment insurance for the week ended March 9, an INCREASE of 6.000 from the prior week’s unrevised report (223,000);
  • The four-week moving average of first-time claims FELL 2,500 to 223,750;
  • Four week moving average represented 0.143 percent of employment, DOWN from 0.144 the previous week;
  • The number of continued claims – individuals who had been collecting unemployment insurance — reported on a one-week lag, was 1,776,000 for the week ended March 2, UP 18,000 from the previous week’s upwardly REVISED 1,758,000 (from 1,755,000)
  • The four-week moving average of continued claims DROPPED 1,000 to 1,766,250.


  • Four-week moving average of initial claims fell for the third straight week; the “three-peat” was the first since December;
  • The four-week moving average of continued claims fell for the first time since last October.

Data Source: Department of Labor

Image result for unemployment claims

On the heels of a disappointing Employment Situation release, first time claims for unemployment insurance rose again during the week ended March 9 hinting the labor market malaise may continue.

The numbers are, to be sure, relative and in historic term claims for unemployment benefits remain low. Indeed, even though continued claims for unemployment insurance – often an indicator of jobs – are up 2.6 percent from the beginning of the year, they’re down 6.1 percent from a year ago and down more than 76 percent from the Great Recession high.

Still, after years of a strong economy any time a key indicator moves the wrong way, it’s important to take notice.

The weekly claims report is one of the important leading indicators of economic woes in part because of its timeliness and frequency. But at the same time, it’s because of its frequency the report is often misread because its subject to all sorts of external influences – weather being chief among them.

That said, the geographic analysis of the claims numbers, as reported by the Labor Department, offer no clear geographic pattern.

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending March 2 for example, were in New York (+16,253), California (+6,636), Pennsylvania (+1,774), Oregon (+1,576), and Georgia (+661), while the largest decreases were in Massachusetts (-4,196), Kentucky (-3,117), Washington (-1,185), Rhode Island (-1,100), and Michigan (-756).

The sector analysis of the claims too is equally muddy. In New York, for example, the Labor Department cited layoffs in the transportation and warehousing, accommodation and food service, and educational service industries.  California saw more service sector layoffs and Pennsylvania layoffs in the transportation and warehousing, accommodation and food service, manufacturing, and health care and social assistance industries

You can hear Mark Lieberman tomorrow and 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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