“Steady,” in this case, depends on how one looks at the jobless claims numbers. If we compare today’s figures to today’s adjusted figures from last week, then claims remained steady at 370,000. However, that ignores the fact that the claims numbers got adjusted upward from last week’s announced 367,000 claims, the 61st week out of 62 that the claims numbers rose in the following week’s restatement:
In the week ending May 12, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 370,000, unchanged from the previous week’s revised figure of 370,000. The 4-week moving average was 375,000, a decrease of 4,750 from the previous week’s revised average of 379,750.
The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.6 percent for the week ending May 5, unchanged from the prior week’s revised rate.
The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending May 5 was 3,265,000, an increase of 18,000 from the preceding week’s revised level of 3,247,000. The 4-week moving average was 3,282,750, a decrease of 11,750 from the preceding week’s revised average of 3,294,500.
Either way, the level of adjustment is small considering the numbers involved — less than 1%, basically statistical noise. After spiking up to the 380-390K level in April, the numbers came down to the 350K level or so but are now slowly inching back up. It’s still in roughly the same territory as we have had all year long, which suggests a continued stagnation in job markets at a low level, not a good sign for the summer. Interestingly, that follows a very good industrial production number for April, which should have sparked a little more job creation. However, after an apparent burst of overhiring this winter, it may take several months of sustained gains to have that kind of impact.
Bloomberg gave today’s weekly numbers a mild thumbs-down:
More Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, a sign the labor market is making little progress.
Jobless claims were unchanged at 370,000 in the week ended May 12, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 48 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for a drop in claims to 365,000. The number of people on unemployment benefit rolls rose, while those receiving extended payments decreased.
The claims figures, reflecting dismissals, may raise concern payrolls will fail to pick up after employers in April added the fewest number of jobs in six months. The lack of a sustained rebound in hiring damps the outlook for consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the world’s largest economy.
“This is just a steady moving along, claims are not getting worse at least,” said Yelena Shulyatyeva, a U.S. economist at BNP Paribas in New York, who correctly projected the number of claims. “We need to see more hiring. We don’t see that happening yet.”
Reuters is also mildly, if unexpectedly, gloomy:
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims falling to 365,000 last week. The four-week moving average for new claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends, fell 4,750 to 375,000.
“We are really not showing much momentum in the labor market at this time,” said Sean Incremona, an economist at 4Cast in New York.
The data comes on the heels of three straight months of slowing employment gains. Companies added 115,000 new jobs to their payrolls in April, the fewest in six months.
Thursday’s report on claims covered the week for May’s payrolls survey. The four-week average of new applications fell marginally between the April and May survey periods, suggesting not much change in labor market conditions.
To quote our President, employers got out over their skis a bit this winter in hiring. It’s going to take sustained economic growth to kick-start job creation, and it’s been years since we’ve seen sustained, significant economic growth. It looks like it will be a few more quarters before we get there, under these conditions.