U.S. Weekly Jobless Claims Edge Up, Matching Projections

by Ike Obudulu Posted on July 18th, 2019

Washington: Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits rose slightly while still remaining around a historically low level that’s consistent with a tight labor market. Jobless claims rose to 216,000 in the week ended July 13, according to Labor Department figures released Thursday that matched estimates in a survey of economists.

The four- week average, a less-volatile measure, edged down to a five-week low of 218,750.

Claims ticked up in a labor market that has been showing steady and gradual improvement. Unemployment filings remain below the five-year average of about 250,000 and the government’s latest monthly jobs report exceeded forecasts with broad improvement across industries.

Labor markets have remained tight, with companies experiencing difficulties filling open positions, according to the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book released Wednesday. Policy makers said in their June statement the job market remains strong, and Chairman Jerome Powell has highlighted solid employment as supporting continued economic growth.

Continuing claims, reported with a one-week lag, fell by 42,000 to a four-week low of 1.69 million in the week ended July 6.

The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.2%, a level that’s been unchanged for more than a year.

The prior week’s claims tally was revised down to 208,000 from 209,000.

Why Markets Care About Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims

Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims – also called  Jobless Claims or Initial Claims – measures the number of individuals who filed for unemployment insurance for the first time during the past week.

Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims is the nation’s earliest economic data. The market impact fluctuates from week to week – there tends to be more focus on the release when traders need to diagnose recent developments, or when the reading is at extremes.

The usual effect is that if ‘Actual’ is less than ‘Forecast’, it is good for the dollar and vice versa.

Markets care because although it’s generally viewed as a lagging indicator, the number of unemployed people is an important signal of overall economic health since consumer spending is highly correlated with labor-market conditions. Unemployment is also a major consideration for those steering the country’s monetary policy.

Initial Claims

An initial claim is a claim filed by an unemployed individual after a separation from an employer. The claimant requests a determination of basic eligibility for the UI program. When an initial claim is filed with a state, certain programmatic activities take place and these result in activity counts including the count of initial claims. The count of U.S. initial claims for unemployment insurance is a leading economic indicator because it is an indication of emerging labor market conditions in the country. However, these are weekly administrative data which are difficult to seasonally adjust, making the series subject to some volatility.

Continued Weeks Claimed

A person who has already filed an initial claim and who has experienced a week of unemployment then files a continued claim to claim benefits for that week of unemployment. Continued claims are also referred to as insured unemployment. The count of U.S. continued weeks claimed is also a good indicator of labor market conditions.

Continued claims reflect the current number of insured unemployed workers filing for UI benefits in the nation. While continued claims are not a leading indicator (they roughly coincide with economic cycles at their peaks and lag at cycle troughs), they provide confirming evidence of the direction of the U.S. economy

Seasonal Adjustments and Annual Revisions

Over the course of a year, the weekly changes in the levels of initial claims and continued claims undergo regularly occurring fluctuations. These fluctuations may result from seasonal changes in weather, major holidays, the opening and closing of schools, or other similar events. Because these seasonal events follow a more or less regular pattern each year, their influence on the level of a series can be tempered by adjusting for regular seasonal variation. These adjustments make trend and cycle developments easier to spot. At the beginning of each calendar year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) with a set of seasonal factors to apply to the unadjusted data during that year. Concurrent with the implementation and release of the new seasonal factors, ETA incorporates revisions to the UI claims historical series caused by updates to the unadjusted data.