Unemployment Claims Drop, But So Does Productivity

There’s no hiding that this week’s initial unemployment insurance claims report was pretty boring. The Department of Labor reported that initial claims fell 1.3 percent week over week to 366,000. In line with the general trend of recent labor market reports, the four-week moving average wobbled less than 1 percent lower to 350,500. This follows a slight increase in both measures last week.

The news is not bad, but it’s not worth opening a bottle of wine over, either. Most states reported fewer layoffs, but the weekly figure is still above the four-week moving average, suggesting that the total number of people claiming benefits could grow at an accelerated rate in the coming weeks. As it stands, 5.6 million people currently claim unemployment benefits, down 27 percent compared to the same time last year. The seasonally-adjusted four-week moving average for first-time claims is down 5.4 percent year over year.

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This report comes on the heels of projections from the Congressional Budget Office that predict the U-3 unemployment rate to remain near 8 percent through 2013. Also released on Thursday was the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s fourth-quarter and annual 2012 productivity and costs report…

The BLS Productivity and Costs report showed that non-farm labor productivity decreased at a 2.0 percent annual rate during the fourth quarter. This is a reflection of a 0.1 percent increase in output counterbalanced by a 2.2 percent increase in hours worked. Between the year-ago period and 4Q 2012, output increased 2.4 percent while hours worked increased 1.8 percent, yielding a 0.6 percent increase in productivity.

Don’t Miss: Here’s What the Congressional Budget Office Expects for 2013 and Beyond.