Weekly jobless claims at 367K

posted at 8:41 am on May 10, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Weekly jobless claims came in at about the same level as last week, although once again last week’s level was adjusted upward, this time by 3,000.  Last week, 365,000 new jobless claims were filed:

In the week ending May 5, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 367,000, a decrease of 1,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 368,000. The 4-week moving average was 379,000, a decrease of 5,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 384,250.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.5 percent for the week ending April 28, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the prior week’s unrevised rate of 2.6 percent.

The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending April 28 was 3,229,000, a decrease of 61,000 from the preceding week’s revised level of 3,290,000. The 4-week moving average was 3,290,000, a decrease of 10,500 from the preceding week’s revised average of 3,300,500.

This looks like we’re returning to the previous level of jobless claims after a month-long spike.  That’s not really an indication of overall improvement, as the previous level came during a slowdown in economic growth, from 3.0% in 2011Q4 to an initial estimate of 2.2% in Q1.  According to Zero Hedge, Goldman Sachs thinks that level will drop in later revisions, too:

Wholesale inventories increased by 0.3% (month-over-month), less than the consensus had forecast. The result was also below the rate of wholesale inventory growth assumed by the Commerce Department in its advance estimate of Q1 GDP. As a result, the report implies a possible downward revision to Q1 GDP. Based on available data, we now expect that Q1 GDP will be revised down to +1.9% (annualized) from +2.2% originally report (the wholesale inventory report accounts for one tenth of the expected downward revision). Tomorrow’s trade report could also affect expected revisions to Q1 GDP. We made no changes to our tracking estimate of Q2 GDP (still +2.0%).

So far, the markets don’t seem too fazed by the report.  It came within 2,000 of expectations, which is about as close a hit as one gets in these series:

U.S. stock index futures held their earlier gains Thursday, struggling to reverse a string of losses and following the weekly jobless claims report, but investors continued to worry over the ongoing euro zone debt crisis.

Weekly claims for unemployment benefits edge down last week 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 367,000, according to the Labor Department. Economists polled by Reuters had expected claims inching up to 369,000. The four-week moving average for new claims fell 5,250 to 379,000.

That’s good news for the White House.  The Obama administration wants to talk about anything other than jobs and the economy, and they’re getting an assist from the media.  Even when they’re not chasing shiny-object distractions like gay marriage (dead last on Gallup’s list of voter priorities, even among Democrats) and Seamus the Roof Ridin’ Dog, they aren’t taking a serious look at the actual data from the BLS on jobs.  In my column this week for The Fiscal Times, I point out that the actual numbers of jobs have declined the last two months, data that has largely gone unreported, and it’s not due to massive retirements:

In April, 522,000 people, and in March, 333,000 left before them.  That’s nearly 900,000 workers who have left the workforce in just two months, while at the same time the number of jobs dropped by almost 200,000.

In fact, the civilian population participation rate hit a 30-year low in April, according to the BLS …

Some have argued that this trend shows nothing more than aging baby boomers heading into retirement as expected, but that’s not the case, either. Investors Business Daily reported from the BLS data that employment among workers 55 years of age and older has hit a new high, as boomers put off retirement – perhaps because of economic uncertainty, the debate over pensions, or the damage done to their retirement accounts in the 2008 crash.

The number of jobs for seniors has grown 3.9 million since the beginning of the recession in December 2007, hitting a 42-year high. That means, of course, that those jobs are not getting passed down to younger workers.  The same data shows that there are 8.1 million fewer jobs for those under 55 in the same four-years-plus period.

The decline in workforce participation hasn’t come from natural outflow of workers in the boomer bubble to retirement, but from a lack of jobs in the economy.  Indeed, if the civilian participation rate had remained where it was at in January 2009, the jobless rate today would be 11.1 percent, not 8.1 percent, and no one would be confused about the state of job creation and the economy.

If the media focused on telling the true story of job destruction over the last three years, we wouldn’t be talking about Swiss bank accounts and dog carriers.


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