April 2019 Initial Unemployment Claims Moving Average Worsens

Market expectations for weekly initial unemployment claims (from Econoday) were 204 K to 215 K (consensus 206,000), and the Department of Labor reported 230,000 new claims. The more important (because of the volatility in the weekly reported claims and seasonality errors in adjusting the data) 4 week moving average moved from 201,500 (reported last week as 201,250) to 206,000. The rolling averages generally have been equal to or under 300,000 since August 2014.

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Analyst Opinion of Initial Unemployment Claims

This marks 211 consecutive weeks of initial claims below 300,000, the longest streak since 1970. The general trend of the 4-week rolling average is a slowing rate of improvement year-over-year which history suggests a slowing economy. The unemployment rate is currently worse than one year ago.

It should be pointed out that Econintersect watches the year-over-year change on the 4-week moving average. There is always some seasonality which migrates into the seasonally adjusted data, and year-over-year comparisons help remove some seasonality. The four-week rolling average of initial claims is 7.9 % lower (worse than the 10.8 % lower for last week) than they were in this same week a year ago.

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Claim levels are at 40-year lows (with the normal range around 350,000 weekly initial unemployment claims of levels seen historically during times of economic expansion - see chart below).

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From the Department of Labor:

In the week ending April 20, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 230,000, an increase of 37,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 1,000 from 192,000 to 193,000. The 4-week moving average was 206,000, an increase of 4,500 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 201,250 to 201,500.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.2 percent for the week ending April 13, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending April 13 was 1,655,000, an increase of 1,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up 1,000 from 1,653,000 to 1,654,000. The 4-week moving average was 1,687,750, a decrease of 25,000 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 1,712,500 to 1,712,750.

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David Haggith 2 years ago Contributor's comment

"The unemployment rate is currently worse than one year ago." No it isn't. Your graphs clearly show it is better. Lower unemployment rates are better like a lower golf score is better.