Weekly Unemployment Claims: Down 23K, Beats Forecast

Here is the opening statement from the Department of Labor:

In the week ending February 16, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 216,000, a decrease of 23,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 239,000. The 4-week moving average was 235,750, an increase of 4,000 from the previous week's unrevised average of 231,750. This is the highest level for this average since January 20, 2018 when it was 237,500. [See full report]

This morning's seasonally adjusted 216K new claims, down 23K from the previous week's 239K, was better than the Investing.com forecast of 220K.

Here is a close look at the data over the decade (with a callout for the past year), which gives a clearer sense of the overall trend in relation to the last recession.

Unemployment Claims since 2007

 

As we can see, there's a good bit of volatility in this indicator, which is why the 4-week moving average (the highlighted number) is a more useful number than the weekly data. Here is the complete data series.

Unemployment Claims

 

The headline Unemployment Insurance data is seasonally adjusted. What does the non-seasonally adjusted data look like? See the chart below, which clearly shows the extreme volatility of the non-adjusted data (the red dots). The 4-week MA gives an indication of the recurring pattern of seasonal change (note, for example, those regular January spikes).

 

Because of the extreme volatility of the non-adjusted weekly data, we can add a 52-week moving average to give a better sense of the secular trends. The chart below also has a linear regression through the data. We can see that this metric continues to fall below the long-term trend stretching back to 1968.

Nonseasonally Adjusted 52-week MA

 

Annual Comparisons

Here is a calendar-year overlay since 2009 using the 4-week moving average. The purpose is to compare the annual slopes since the peak in the spring of 2009, near the end of the Great Recession.

Yearly Overlay

 

For an analysis of unemployment claims as a percent of the labor force, see regularly updated piece The Civilian Labor Force, Unemployment Claims and the Business Cycle. Here is a snapshot from that analysis.

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