Weekly initial jobless claims drop to 366K

posted at 9:50 am on December 15, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

The US got some good news, albeit qualified, on the job front today from the Department of Labor.  The level of initial jobless claims last week fell to 366,000, the lowest level since a normal recession turned into something historically ugly:

In the week ending December 10, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 366,000, a decrease of 19,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 385,000. The 4-week moving average was 387,750, a decrease of 6,500 from the previous week’s revised average of 394,250.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.9 percent for the week ending December 3, unchanged from the prior week’s revised rate.

The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending December 3 was 3,603,000, an increase of 4,000 from the preceding week’s revised level of 3,599,000. The 4-week moving average was 3,666,250, a decrease of 5,000 from the preceding week’s revised average of 3,671,250.

If claims remain at this level — and remember, these are seasonally-adjusted numbers — then this is good news.  While a level of 366K doesn’t indicate a healthy level of job creation, it at least signals that job destruction has slowed significantly.  We need to get much lower than 366K, and stay there consistently, to expect job-creation numbers to correspondingly increase.

So why do I say “qualified” above?  I’ve charted the data on this series since the first week of 2000, along with the “covered employment” workforce levels in this DoL series (divided by 100 to make the chart readable), and the chart shows why this is qualified good news:

The numbers on the X-axis are the weeks, as I did this quickly and didn’t have time to change them into year numbers.  The 53 marker is the first week of 2001, 105 the first week of 2002, and so on.  The last two weeks of weekly claims figures are not on this chart, as the DoL has not updated their historical tables as of yet, but otherwise you would see a significant dip at the end.

This chart gives us a couple of things to keep in mind.  First, the actual level of this series that correlates with job expansion is, as I have written many times, between 300-325K, and only when hitting that level consistently.  The covered-employment level is an interesting correlation as well.  That didn’t rise until well after the weekly claims level dropped consistently into that 300K level.  This would tend to substantiate that job growth is a lagging indicator in a recovery.

None of this is terribly significant if this week’s results are an anomaly rather than a trend, but we have seen this level dropping the last few weeks.  In 2010, we saw a similar decline of around 15-20K claims from the end of October to the end of December, which continued declining into the first quarter to the level of 380K before the gas price shock hit.  That wasn’t a seasonal anomaly then, as seasonal adjustments have already been applied.

Reuters is unabashedly optimistic, and even pulls out the U-word:

New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits dropped to a 3-1/2 year low last week, a government report showed on Thursday, suggesting the labor market

recovery was gaining speed.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 366,000, the Labor Department said. That was the lowest level since May 2008.

The prior week’s claims data was revised up to 385,000 from the previously reported 381,000.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 390,000 last week.

The unexpected drop in claims last week pushed them closer to the 350,000 mark that analysts say signals labor market strength.

Er, now it’s the 350K mark that signals labor market strength?  Once again, I’d like to see the calculations they made that show labor market gains while the claims level sustains itself at 350K.  I’ve run the numbers several times, and I don’t see any period in the last twenty years where a consistent 350K level of initial claims correlates with job-creation strength.  It’s the 400K myth, marked down slightly, but not enough.


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Which of the GOP hopefuls is going to expose the lie the government is telling us about unemployment?

davidk on December 15, 2011 at 9:58 AM

To be revised upward next week…

hillsoftx on December 15, 2011 at 9:59 AM

We can expect to hear lots of “good news” from the Dept. of Labor over the next 10 months or so. The narrative that we are in recovery has to be created to coincide with Zero’s never-ending reelection campaign.

Right Mover on December 15, 2011 at 9:59 AM

O boy! Just wait until the holidays are over with….

watertown on December 15, 2011 at 10:00 AM

I got laid off last week.

So nice to be a statistic.

Yakko77 on December 15, 2011 at 10:01 AM

davidk on December 15, 2011 at 9:58 AM

None, that’s not the meme the meme is Gingrich is unelectable, not conservative… and generally evil

Achele175 on December 15, 2011 at 10:01 AM

“The beatings will continue until morale improves…….” -Obama

search4truth on December 15, 2011 at 10:02 AM

er…sorry that was supposed to be a quote… /head desk

Achele175 on December 15, 2011 at 10:02 AM

We can expect to hear lots of “good news” from the Dept. of Labor over the next 10 months or so. The narrative that we are in recovery has to be created to coincide with Zero’s never-ending reelection campaign.

Yep, as we have been seeing that 100K jobs added a month is great news and signs of a booming, growing economy. Just like the 4))K mark of “new claims” like Ed pointed out. They pretty much hope the unwashed masses like me and you are just too dumb to see though the lies… sadly, most are.

watertown on December 15, 2011 at 10:02 AM

How come when the job numbers are bad, some on this board rejoice. However when they show hopes of optimism, folks here claim they were cooked. This is what stinks about politics.

loveofcountry on December 15, 2011 at 10:04 AM

Morgan Stanley to cut 1,600 jobs in Q1

stenwin77 on December 15, 2011 at 10:04 AM

Yakko77 on December 15, 2011 at 10:01 AM

That is terrible. I would say I hope you find a job soon… and I do… but that just sounds naive… still I do hope.

Achele175 on December 15, 2011 at 10:04 AM

Isn’t this expected? Holiday hiring…retailers hiring extra help for the Holiday season? Curious to see come January how things pan out.

SPGuy on December 15, 2011 at 10:05 AM

NOoooooo!
But, but. butt….WE’VE TURNED THE CORNER!

PAGING… Debbie What’shername Shultz! Line 5!

President Pivot and Focus, needs four more years to complete the turnaround.
Summer of recovery, fall recovery, winter of recovery, Christmas recovery, Spring recovery…oh wait no…that was Arab Spring…never mind!

KOOLAID2 on December 15, 2011 at 10:05 AM

Yakko77,

Sorry to hear…. :-(

SPGuy on December 15, 2011 at 10:05 AM

Yeah, great news – the ship is sinking but it’s sinking more slowly. Barry’s policies are working! Yay! Six more years!

Marxism is for dummies on December 15, 2011 at 10:06 AM

thanks Ed!

I want to see the U6 numbers.

CoffeeLover on December 15, 2011 at 10:06 AM

How come when the job numbers are bad, some on this board rejoice. However when they show hopes of optimism, folks here claim they were cooked. This is what stinks about politics.

loveofcountry on December 15, 2011 at 10:04 AM

Because we MUST get rid of the Communist in OUR White House. A high unemployment, tho painful, is one more nail in the Communist’s coffin.

stenwin77 on December 15, 2011 at 10:06 AM

Sally Satchelbottom, working for the US Government, doing her US Government spreadsheets in her US Government cubicle, buying gas for her Prius with her US Government paycheck. This is the human face of Labor Statistics.

Hmmm…I wonder which way Sally votes? I wonder if she has motivation, official or otherwise, to fudge the numbers?

jangle12 on December 15, 2011 at 10:07 AM

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 366,000, the Labor Department said. That was the lowest level since May 2008.

Wow. It’s been three and a half years with new claims above 366,000 every week. Average length of unemployment is through the roof. And yet the official unemployment number is at 8.6%. It’s surreal.

forest on December 15, 2011 at 10:13 AM

I got laid off last week.

Yakko77 on December 15, 2011 at 10:01 AM

Sorry man. Welcome to the club.

As much as I despised Obama and the direction he was dragging us, I always thought that as long as I went to work every day I was doing something in some small way to preserve America as I understood it.

I hope whatever kid in India or Malaysia got my job is enjoying his or her holiday season of choice.

saint kansas on December 15, 2011 at 10:13 AM

Well, now that the economy is doing all right, what do we need Romney for?

trigon on December 15, 2011 at 10:14 AM

It could be because the Occupiers have reached Darwin levels. This fool put her baby on the train tracks trying to occupy them or something.

bloggless on December 15, 2011 at 10:14 AM

Because we MUST get rid of the Communist in OUR White House. A high unemployment, tho painful, is one more nail in the Communist’s coffin.

stenwin77 on December 15, 2011 at 10:06 AM

Proof why politics stinks! I am not a big fan of all his policies either but name calling and personal attacks lead us no where. Doesn’t help solve the problems. All it does is make solutions to problems more difficult to get to.

loveofcountry on December 15, 2011 at 10:15 AM

I shudder at the lies and deceit we’ll have as we run up to November…

We need some kind of truth clearing house on call 24/7. Bonded and endorsed by Mother Goose or Superman or somebody! :)

golfmann on December 15, 2011 at 10:15 AM

You can rest assured that the jobless numbers and economic growth numbers will start looking better until Nov. 6, 2012. The Obama cooks are already at work baking the numbers for the idiots consumption.

they lie on December 15, 2011 at 10:16 AM

I got laid off last week.

So nice to be a statistic.

Yakko77 on December 15, 2011 at 10:01 AM

Been there. Wife has been stuck in a PT job for 3 years and still looking for FT. Prayers for a fast recovery…for all of us.

swinia sutki on December 15, 2011 at 10:16 AM

I got laid off last week.

So nice to be a statistic.

Yakko77 on December 15, 2011 at 10:01 AM

I am truly sorry. My wishes are with you. Persevere and remember, “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.”

The War Planner on December 15, 2011 at 10:17 AM

The new data represents a positive development, although at present, the statistical trend for the weekly number of seasonally-adjusted new jobless claims established since 9 April 2011 appears to still be intact (this week’s data is still less than three standard deviations away from the central trend line.)

If that changes within the next two weeks, and the weekly number falls outside that range (below 357,500 next week and below 356,500 the following week), we would describe the current trend as no longer being in effect.

We would then trace backwards in time to identify the time of the last uptick in the numbers above the mean trend line (right now, that’s 3 December 2011) to look for an event some 2-3 weeks earlier than that (most likely the week of 12 November 2011 through 19 November 2011) to identify what event might have caused the break in the current trend by positively affecting the business outlook of U.S. employers.

If you believe that the current trend for the weekly number of new unemployment insurance benefit filings is already broken, and that next week’s data will just confirm that, you’re more than welcome to beat us to the punch to what triggered the break in trend!

ironman on December 15, 2011 at 10:19 AM

saint kansas on December 15, 2011 at 10:13 AM

Best of luck to you too in finding something else.

Yakko77 on December 15, 2011 at 10:20 AM

Before you know it Biden will dusting off the “Recovery Summer” mantra getting ready for summer 2012

LaRepublican on December 15, 2011 at 10:21 AM

I got laid off last week.

So nice to be a statistic.

Yakko77 on December 15, 2011 at 10:01 AM

So sorry to hear. My son was laid off last week too. Next week a friend’s husband gets the pink slip. A new solar co in AZ is laying off 100 and scaling back construction. Other businesses are laying off. Call me skeptical but I don’t believe the Obama admin’s ability to provide accurate and truthful numbers.

GrannySunni on December 15, 2011 at 10:23 AM

I got laid off last week.

So nice to be a statistic.

Yakko77 on December 15, 2011 at 10:01 AM

Really sorry to hear that.

I think we will more economic issues when our debt get further downgraded, like what happening in Europe. This is not the end of the recession, it’s only the middle.

Oil Can on December 15, 2011 at 10:25 AM

But, but. butt….WE’VE TURNED THE CORNER!

KOOLAID2 on December 15, 2011 at 10:05 AM

$10,000 says Dianne Sawyer introduces it with:

“More good news on the economy. More evidence things are finally turning around?”

Axe on December 15, 2011 at 10:29 AM

*$10,000 is imaginary. Not available in VT or where prohibited. Some restrictions apply.

Axe on December 15, 2011 at 10:30 AM

got laid off last week.

So nice to be a statistic.

Yakko77 on December 15, 2011 at 10:01 AM

Your employment status does not define you. Henry Ford is also a statistic.

michaelthomas on December 15, 2011 at 10:31 AM

Unfortunately, the economy is cyclical and it appears to be recovering just in time for Obama’s re-election. I’m sure the better potential GOP candidates knew this would happen and Obama would be a shoe-in by next Nov. One thing is for certain, Obama is the luckiest man alive. He’s always been the beneficiary of perfect political timing…the sex scandal leading to his becoming Senator, the financial collapse happening when he was behind to Palin (McCain had nothing to do with being ahead at that time), and now the economy/jobs surging in his re-election effort.

gumbyandpokey on December 15, 2011 at 10:38 AM

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 390,000 last week.

That’s one wicked hockey stick plot my brother. Was Krugman or Reichchchchcha one those economists polled? Can’t trust economists, scientists, or politicians — only our ownselves. Sad that we have to do our own homework and not rely on the ‘experts’ for the truth.

racquetballer on December 15, 2011 at 10:38 AM

If we had competent leadership and economic policy GPD growth would be 5% right now and unemployment at 7% and dropping. Healthcare, FinReg, EPA, NLRB, and massive deficit spending have contributed to a slow recovery. Reagan had no benefit from historically low interest rates, quantitative easing or trillion dollar fiscal stimulus spending yet he was able generate robust economic growth In one month in 1983 1 million jobs were created.

Wigglesworth on December 15, 2011 at 10:39 AM

I predict that this week’s number will be revised in a negative direction in a few weeks.

hawksruleva on December 15, 2011 at 10:41 AM

How about another “Cash for Clunkers” to carry on this downward trend, it worked so well the first time.

Rude Ram on December 15, 2011 at 10:48 AM

Yet the long term unemployment stayed about the same and the duration on unemployment rose which is not good news. Factor in the people who are not looking for work (discouraged) and not counted in the unemployed figures and things look even worse.

Job creation is not keeping up with the new work force which grows everyday.

plutorocks on December 15, 2011 at 10:53 AM

That’s right folks, good news…

Only 366,000 new peopled signed up for unemployment. That’s Three Hundred Sixty-six Thousand NEWLY Hopelessly Chained in time for Christmas and Hanuka….At least till the cooked numbers are revised up after Christmas.

Robert Jensen on December 15, 2011 at 10:56 AM

Here’s another U word — Upchuck.

racquetballer on December 15, 2011 at 11:07 AM

Color me skeptical but after the ‘revised’ number of housing sales by the National Association of Realtors for the last five years showed an over counting of 20%, what numbers are real anymore? Let’s wait and see until January’s numbers arfe in in early February, maybe the EU will have entered into a recession again, and see how the numbers play.

Bob in VA on December 15, 2011 at 11:11 AM

I don’t understand why the Republicans are taking more credit for these numbers. Before the Congress switched hands, businesses were laying off at record rates. Now that the Republicans in t

Steant1965 on December 15, 2011 at 11:17 AM

These numbers are a reflection on the Republicans in the House not being bullied into unnecessary stimulus plans and tax hikes. Obama wanted more money spent and more regulation and more taxes; saying that it was necessary to create jobs. The Republicans said no and now we see unemployment applications getting lower. Republicans should be taking some credit for these numbers.

Steant1965 on December 15, 2011 at 11:19 AM

one step closer to reelection.

sesquipedalian on December 15, 2011 at 11:32 AM

Ppl laying on train tracks-must stop train-must stop-all heck their only democrats- Full speed ahead…..squish ……..oops- I didn’t see them officer I swear.

angrymike on December 15, 2011 at 11:42 AM

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics!

Look around. Believe what you see, not what the MS media tells you to see.

What do I see? I see people willing to beat each other to a pulp to safe $10 on a Christmas gift for thier kid. Why? Maybe that $10 is the difference between eating next week and not.

Why buy the gift you ask? Because, people are afraid to admit the truth to themselves or thier families…The truth is they are BROKE. The truth is they continue to live on credit or loans against thier retirement or 2nd & 3rd home loans, any credit they can get…If they have a Sears card, they use it to buy VISA gift cards, ANYTHING…

There is no disposable income anymore. We just cant admit it…The spending drug of the last 10 – 20 years is POWERFUL. Its a hard habit to break.

How does this tie back to the story? Easy, nobody wants to question the numbers, nobody wants to know what the real unemployment figures are…If forced to see and UNDERSTAND them, then they would be forced to face reality.

If people were facing reality, they would buy maybe 1 small gift for each family member this Christmas (thats what we did), instead of shopping like they need to prove they have $$.

They continue to hide from the truth, hide behind the debt and CC bills. Hoping the whole time they dont get laid off like thier neighbor, or friend or brother.

BigFrank on December 15, 2011 at 11:49 AM

And the UNadjusted numbers are? Just asking….

dogsoldier on December 15, 2011 at 11:57 AM

I fully expect to see these figures quietly and “unexpectedly” revised upward. Ed, it would have nice to see the trend of the total workforce for this same period. I understand that it has declined markedly since the Ascension of Teh One. Being somewhat of a masochist. I long for the return of GWB’s horrible economy.

FirelandsO3 on December 15, 2011 at 12:00 PM

What a unexpected surprise! I never expected that the numbers would unexpectedly be this good! Thank you Barack! We are saved! Four more years!

Is the sarc tag necessary?

sandee on December 15, 2011 at 12:11 PM

The DNC will roll-out DWS on Sunday with ‘proof’ now of the Obama job creation success!

HoosierStateofMind on December 15, 2011 at 12:17 PM

I’m one of those no-longer-counted long-term unemployed, but I continue to keep looking for work.

I don’t matter to the federal government for unemployment statistics, but wait until Obamacare fully kicks in. Then the feds will wonder why I’m not paying up. Then I’ll matter.

madmonkphotog on December 15, 2011 at 12:33 PM

Numbers will change back after the holidays.

Returns are already at a record high, and the holidays have not even begun.

Schadenfreude on December 15, 2011 at 12:36 PM

If I am recalling correctly, these figures are almost always revised upward within a few weeks of their release. I think this has happened almost every month, though the upward revisions are not widely mentioned in the MSM (surprise, surprise!)

lukjuj on December 15, 2011 at 12:52 PM

numbers from the gubmit…are you kidding me??…how bout sum cooked books… man o man

nchammer on December 15, 2011 at 1:11 PM

loveofcountry

I don’t know anyone who rejoices in bad job numbers. People are out of work, people can’t afford to pay for their homes, there is little relief in sight. Nothing to be happy about.

What I think you misread as “joy” is people trying to drive home the point that the continued high unemployment has its current roots in the badly misguided economic policies of this administration. As for the claim that “the books are cooked”, this is a repeating theme. All the unemployment figures tell us is the number of “officially” unemployed, that is, those people still receiving benefits. A recent article estimated that actual unemployment, counting “discouraged” workers, part-time workers who could be working full-time, etc., is up around 22%.

As Mark Twain once said, “there are lies, damned lies and statistics.”

UnrepentantCurmudgeon on December 15, 2011 at 1:37 PM

So, we’re all supposed to somehow feel good about the fact that only 366,000 applied for unemployment benefits? And of course, we all know that this figure will be adjusted upwards–but of course, the lamestream media will largely ignore that….

jfs756 on December 15, 2011 at 3:15 PM

BigFrank on December 15, 2011 at 11:49 AM

gumbyandpokey on December 15, 2011 at 10:38 AM

First, Pokey, I once knew a recovery. The recovery was a friend to me. And let me assure you, this is no recovery.

I was watching the Current channel on cable. They had a reality show about two Americas. An unemployed family and a rich one. For background noise, they had (drumroll) MITT making innocent remarks on the plasma TV in a debate which the unemployed couple agreed with.

Anyone with a brain would include something from the present administration. Or, if they were really rotten, go back to Congressman Frank’s lies about how free enterprise caused it all with President Bush speaking.

No — gotta shoot at the new targets.

IlikedAUH2O on December 15, 2011 at 4:01 PM

I have a clue! Employ me!

The Nerve on December 15, 2011 at 5:55 PM

My daughter was fired last week (new manager cleaning house) and my eldest son’s plant in closing at the end of the year. He’ll get 45 days of pay plus 2 weeks of severance, so he won’t show up as unemployed until March, if then. My daughter doesn’t qualify for unemployment.

Lots of people who are out of work aren’t included in those numbers.

Common Sense on December 15, 2011 at 7:36 PM

Come on, these statistics are wonky. Where are the people who dropped off the end of unemployment insurance? What percentage of Americans are employed. That would be ALL Americans all ages. The percentage should be about the same over history or actually going up about the time women entered the work place. They are WAY down today. But we’re papering if over with a statistical measure that is close to meaningless.

{^_^}

herself on December 16, 2011 at 7:32 AM