This Initial Jobless Claims Average Hits a 6 Month Low

The Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims Report was released this morning for last week. Today’s 403,000 keeps us above the 400K level, where it has been for 26 of the last 28 weeks. The less volatile and closely watched four-week moving average also comes in at 403,000 — a 6 month low. Here is the official statement from the Department of Labor:

In the week ending October 15, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 403,000, a decrease of 6,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 409,000. The 4-week moving average was 403,000, a decrease of 6,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 409,250.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.9 percent for the week ending October 8, unchanged from the prior week’s unrevised rate of 2.9 percent.

The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending October 8 was 3,719,000, an increase of 25,000 from the preceding week’s revised level of 3,694,000. The 4-week moving average was 3,722,500, a decrease of 7,500 from the preceding week’s revised average of 3,730,000.

Today’s number was precisely in line with the consensus estimate of 403,000 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.