Weekly Initial Jobless Claims Up: An Anomaly?

Initial claims for benefits were up for the week ending January 21, by some 21,000 (seasonally adjusted), to 377,000. This runs counter to virtually all current economic indicators, which imply very positive projections. The 4-week moving average of those claims is still decreasing, this week down to 377,500, which means the new weekly number is still below that average. Is this weekly unemployment statistic an anomaly, a glitch, or actually something to pause over?

January can be a frustrating month for statisticians. The holidays are over and most figures for December and January must be duly adjusted, something that is easier said than done. These numbers are typically quite volatile due to norming methods used, and by their own nature. This January is apparently no exception.

By contrast to unemployment claims, orders for durables increased in December by 3%. These included raw materials and updating capital equipment, which normally would indicate creation of future jobs, not layoffs. Also, mass (greater than 50) layoffs stayed constant in December. These two statistics help to imply that the weekly claims figure might be a glitch caused by seasonal adjustments, but stay tuned: the January unemployment report will be released by the BLS on February 3.