Jobless Claims Finally Give Wall Street Something to Cheer

The Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims Report was released this morning for last week. Today’s 391,000 finally takes us below the 400K level, where it had been for 23 of the last 24 weeks. The less volatile and closely watched four-week moving average fell for the first time in six weeks but remains above 400K at 417,000. Here is the official statement from the Department of Labor:

In the week ending September 24, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 391,000, a decrease of 37,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 428,000. The 4-week moving average was 417,000, a decrease of 5,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 422,250.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 3.0 percent for the week ending September 17, unchanged from the prior week’s unrevised rate.

The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending September 17 was 3,729,000, a decrease of 20,000 from the preceding week’s revised level of 3,749,000. The 4-week moving average was 3,743,000, a decrease of 4,500 from the preceding week’s revised average of 3,747,500.

Today’s number was much better than the consensus estimate of 419,000 claims.

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

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Occasionally I see articles critical of seasonal adjustment, especially when the non-adjusted number better suits the author’s bias. But a comparison of these two charts clearly shows extreme volatility of the non-adjusted data, and the 4-week MA gives an indication of the recurring pattern of seasonal change in the second chart (note, for example, those regular January spikes).

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Because of the extreme volatility of the non-adjusted weekly data, a 52-week moving average gives a better sense of the long-term trends.

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides an overview on seasonal adjustment here (scroll down about half way down).

Doug Short Ph.d is the author of

Learn More with Econ 101: Your Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Unemployment Numbers.