1st-time Unemployment Insurance Claims Steady but Elevated

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights

  • There were 227,000 1st-time claims for unemployment insurance for the week ended November 16, 2019, UNCHANGED from the previous week’s upwardly revised 227,000 (from 225,000);
  • The four-week moving average of initial claims INCREASED 3,500 to 221,000;
  • Four-week moving average represented 0.141 percent of employment, UP from 0.139 percentage one week earlier;
  • The number of continued claims – individuals who had been collecting unemployment insurance — reported on a one-week lag, was 1,695,000 for the week ended November 16, UP 3,000 from the previous week’s UPWARDLY REVISED 1,692,000 (from 1,683,000)
  • The four-week moving average of continued claims ROSE 3,000 to 1,693,000.

Trends:

  • The four-week moving average of first-time claims for unemployment insurance ROSE for the third straight week;
  • The number of continued claims was unchanged year-year and has not dropped year-year for seven straight weeks;
  • The four-week moving average of continued claims has increased for seven straight weeks for the first time since the beginning of this year.

Data Source: Department of Labor

Image result for unemployment depression

First-time claims for unemployment insurance continued to inch up signaling further unrest in labor markets. (Technically claims for the week ended November 16 were unchanged from the previous week but the prior numbers had been revised upward.)

The absolute numbers remain low by historical standards (the historic low is 162,000 first-time claims for the week ended November 30, 1968 – representing about 0.21 percent of total employment – 50 percent higher than today). The weekly Labor Department report continues to reflect a weakness in the labor market with the increase in continued claims suggesting those collecting unemployment benefits are unable to find jobs.

The Labor Department report also hinted the unemployment rate could rise slightly when the Employment Situation report for November is released December 6.

From mid-October to mid-November, corresponding to the “reference” week used in determining the unemployment rate, first-time claims for unemployment insurance rose 9,000 – the largest mid-month to mid-month increase since April-May – and the four-week moving average rose 5,250. When those two metrics rose in April-May there were small increases in the unemployment rate. The unemployment rate rose to 3.6 percent in October from 3.5 percent in September.

On a one-week lag, the Labor Department reported the largest increases in initial claims for the week ending November 9 were in California (+6,484), New Jersey (+5,197), New York (+2,721), Texas (+2,532), and Minnesota (+2,117), while the largest decreases were in Colorado (-794), Arkansas (-458), Montana (-188), Vermont (-27), and Arizona (-14).

You can hear Mark Lieberman Friday mornings at 6:20 am on POTUS’ Morning Briefing, Sirius-XM 124. You can follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

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