Did weekly jobless claims “unexpectedly” rise last week?

posted at 10:41 am on June 14, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

It seems that Bloomberg has picked up where Reuters left off in reporting on jobs figures.  The Department of Labor issued its normal weekly report on initial jobless claims, which had both an expected but slight rise in the number of claims reported last week — and an upward revision to the supposedly-improved position from the week before.  In other words, especially after this week’s retail sales figures and last Friday’s jobs report for May, this should come as no surprise to anyone:

In the week ending June 9, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 386,000, an increase of 6,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 380,000. The 4-week moving average was 382,000, an increase of 3,500 from the previous week’s revised average of 378,500.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.6 percent for the week ending June 2, unchanged from the prior week’s unrevised rate.

The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending June 2 was 3,278,000, a decrease of 33,000 from the preceding week’s revised level of 3,311,000. The 4-week moving average was 3,281,500, a decrease of 2,500 from the preceding week’s revised average of 3,284,000.

What is this, the 66th week out 67th that the DoL has upwardly-revised the previous week’s figures?  That’s hardly unexpected.  An increase of 6,000 constitutes a rise of 1.6%, more or less statistical noise.  The results fall squarely within the range we’ve seen most of this year, although it is getting to the upper band of that range, and inching closer to the 400K mark, a line that’s mainly important for political psychology.

That didn’t keep Bloomberg from breaking out the U-word in its headline and its report:

More Americans than forecast applied for unemployment insurance payments last week, another sign the labor market is struggling to improve.

Claims for jobless benefits unexpectedly climbed by 6,000 to 386,000 in the week ended June 9 from a revised 380,000 the prior week that was more than first estimated, Labor Departmentfigures showed today in Washington. Economists projected claims would fall to 375,000, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey.

A pickup in dismissals may raise concern the labor market will have trouble rebounding after a slowdown in job creation in the past four months. Weaker economic growth and a lack of clarity about the business environment may discourage companies from hiring at a pace needed to speed up the expansion.

Reuters went with the usual substitute, “more than expected” (via Steve Eggleston):

Consumer prices fell in May by the most in over three years as households paid less for gasoline, possibly giving the U.S. Federal Reserve more room to help an economy that is showing signs of weakening.

Jobless claims also rose more than expected, climbing to 386,000 for the week, while the current account deficit also expanded.

Oh, wait … there it is, six paragraphs down:

Meanwhile, the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week, government data on Thursday showed, suggesting persistent weakness in the labor market after stumbling badly in recent months.

Here’s my question: after two three straight weak-to-poor monthly job reports and a bad report on retail sales in May, on what basis did these economists expect an improvement? Of course, I’ve been asking that for a few years now, and it gets as much explanation as to why the DoL and BLS always have to make an upward revision on this series each week, when revisions should more or less even out between up and down over a significant period of time when the initial report relies on estimates.  At this rate, though, the changes and the “unexpectedlys” aren’t helping the Obama administration any more, if they ever did.

Speaking of which, the Daily Caller takes a close look at Barack Obama’s nominee to run the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Erica Groshen.  The BLS deals strictly in data and statistical analysis, which means that politics really shouldn’t enter into the appointment, and that the person should make all sides feel comfortable that the work within BLS will not get politicized, especially because their products are so crucial to informing public policy.  Does Groshen’s background give a reasonable assurance that this will be the case?  Er … perhaps not:

The president’s nominee to run the highly visible Bureau of Labor Statistics is on track to win Senate approval despite her ties to decidedly left-wing political groups, her critics say.

Erica Groshen’s left-wing ties include her 1998 co-authorship of an article urging an end to small businesses’ exemption from expensive federal regulations, and her husband’s 2011 donation to the far-left Working Families Party. …

Groshen co-authored her 1998 article, in which she argued against regulatory exemptions for small firms, for the union-backed Economic Policy Institute. That organization’s chief economist at the time, Jared Bernstein, later served as Chief Economist and Economic Adviser to Vice President Joe Biden.

“Large firms are doing well by employees, and themselves, by providing jobs with higher wages and benefits and greater job security,” read the article. “[P]ublic policy, rather than favoring small business by exempting it from many forms of regulation, should strive to be size neutral.”

The donation was $20, hardly a huge financial commitment to the left-wing group’s activities.  Moreover, I don’t disagree that in principle regulation should be size-neutral.  The problem is that even size-neutral regulation benefits larger players in markets, because they have economies of scale that allow them to absorb compliance costs without raising prices as much.  That’s why larger companies will either tacitly support or actively lobby for regulation and licensing requirements, which handicap smaller firms and have the potential to drive them out of business.  The short-term solution to this issue is to create sized-based exemptions, but the long-term solution is to sharply reduce regulation altogether to allow markets to find the winners and losers on their own.

Well-respected center-right economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth says that there isn’t anything to worry about, mainly because the person at the top can’t do anything to skew the data even if they wanted to — and Furchtgott-Roth doesn’t believe Groshen does:

“She’s a left-wing economist … but her public record is excellent — she hasn’t written anything weird,” said Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

“She’s a very, very good economist and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with her,” Furchtgott-Roth said, adding that “no-one could be more Republican than I am.”

I hope she’s correct.  I rely on BLS data for a lot of my analysis, and they have a very good reputation for getting things right — or at least as right as they can.


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No, I’m more Republican…

OmahaConservative on June 14, 2012 at 10:44 AM

Ed, unexpectedly stressed unexpectedly.

gerrym51 on June 14, 2012 at 10:45 AM

I can see the distortion of Labor Statistics from my porch.

upinak on June 14, 2012 at 10:45 AM

Speaking of which, the Daily Caller takes a close look at Barack Obama’s nominee to run the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Erica Groshen.

“Goshen” is actually the Romanian version of Goebbels.

If she is appointed you will soon learn that not only has unemployment dropped to 0%, but also that Stalingrad has been captured.

Bishop on June 14, 2012 at 10:48 AM

It’s never about what the numbers show. It’s about what they can be spun to show.

Extrafishy on June 14, 2012 at 10:49 AM

Whatever happened to Unemployment Line Girl? I miss her. Ed, could you please throw her back into the graphics rotation?

steebo77 on June 14, 2012 at 10:49 AM

What is this, the 66th week out 67th that the DoL has upwardly-revised the previous week’s figures?

This used to be considered ‘criminal’ or ‘fraud’. Now it’s ObamaWorld.

faraway on June 14, 2012 at 10:51 AM

Whatever happened to Unemployment Line Girl? I miss her.

steebo77 on June 14, 2012 at 10:49 AM

Sadly, she stopped looking.

faraway on June 14, 2012 at 10:52 AM

There’s certainly a distortion in IL. Every week the numbers of unemployed gets adjusted upward, the jobs aren’t out there, and yet tier 4 EUC is being cancelled in IL next week because they say the unemployment “rate” has dropped below a certain level. Of course, it’s IL and who knows what they’re cookin’ the numbers with in this state. That drops the number of unemployment weeks to 73 and I wonder what will those people do, losing benefits with no job prospects in sight?

stukinIL4now on June 14, 2012 at 10:53 AM

I can see the distortion of Labor Statistics from my porch.

upinak on June 14, 2012 at 10:45 AM

The people of Alaska seem to have great vision. :)

P. Monk on June 14, 2012 at 10:56 AM

4-week average has drifted up from the 375K level, but this is not dramatic; we know that the economy is slow now, and everyone is watching Europe and China closely. The CPI took a big drop, which confirms the decline in gas prices (the 6.8% decline in gas prices was the largest in 4 years, and further supports the idea that the drop in retail sales was mostly pricing). The widening of the current account deficit is consistent with the view that the worldwide economy has slowed, even while Americans continue to buy. So far, nothing unexpected here …

All eyes are on Greece this weekend, and early indications are that they may vote to stay the course …the Greek markets are up over 10% today, and the National Bank of Greece SA alone has soared 26%. Stay tuned …

TouchdownBuddha on June 14, 2012 at 10:57 AM

Sadly, she stopped looking.

faraway on June 14, 2012 at 10:52 AM

According to the government, she’s no longer unemployed, then.

The Rogue Tomato on June 14, 2012 at 10:58 AM

on what basis did these economists expect an improvement?

On the basis that barky the magic money man was giving a speech today. duh.

Lost in Jersey on June 14, 2012 at 10:59 AM

TouchdownBuddha on June 14, 2012 at 10:57 AM

Well said. Thank you. :)

P. Monk on June 14, 2012 at 11:02 AM

Whatever happened to Unemployment Line Girl? I miss her.

steebo77 on June 14, 2012 at 10:49 AM

Julia?

faraway on June 14, 2012 at 11:02 AM

The “unexpectedly”s are everywhere:

From a picture caption on this article:
http://www.startribune.com/politics/158990595.html

President Obama unexpectedly ducked out Wednesday to eat lunch at Kenny’s BBQ Smokehouse in Washington in a Father’s Day tribute.

strictnein on June 14, 2012 at 11:04 AM

Pic of the Day: Tingles Sucks

http://predicthistunpredictpast.blogspot.com/2012/06/pic-of-day-tingles-sucks.html

M2RB: Dave Matthews live

Resist We Much on June 14, 2012 at 11:04 AM

Whatever happened to Unemployment Line Girl? I miss her.

steebo77 on June 14, 2012 at 10:49 AM

Sadly, she stopped looking.

faraway on June 14, 2012 at 10:52 AM

She couldn’t pay her cell phone bill, so the company turned it off.

Steve Z on June 14, 2012 at 11:04 AM

Pic of the Day: Tingles Sucks

http://predicthistunpredictpast.blogspot.com/2012/06/pic-of-day-tingles-sucks.html

M2RB: Dave Matthews live

Resist We Much on June 14, 2012 at 11:04 AM

Hilarious! Thanks.

P. Monk on June 14, 2012 at 11:08 AM

“She’s a very, very good economist and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with her,”

Where did I hear a variation of that comment. Oh, that’s right McCain said something similar about our current president. How did that work out.

BTW I am one of those who don’t trust very little of the data coming out of government agencies.

chemman on June 14, 2012 at 11:08 AM

Meanwhile, the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits un expectedly rose last week, government data on Thursday showed, suggesting persistent weakness in the labor market after stumbling badly in recent months.

There, fixed.

herm2416 on June 14, 2012 at 11:08 AM

So when Romney is in the Oval Office will Reuters report any bad news beginning with “as expected” and any good news as “unexpectedly”? Just askin’

txmomof6 on June 14, 2012 at 11:13 AM

What they are doing is dangerous. One by one they are rending agencies of the federal government illegitimate.

forest on June 14, 2012 at 11:14 AM

M2RB: Dave Matthews live

Resist We Much on June 14, 2012 at 11:04 AM

In some nations you can be executed for using Dave Matthews music on a website, and after listening to a few of his tunes I can understand why.

Bishop on June 14, 2012 at 11:14 AM

So when Romney is in the Oval Office will Reuters report any bad news beginning with “as expected” and any good news as “unexpectedly”? Just askin’

txmomof6 on June 14, 2012 at 11:13 AM

Every night, we will see in-depth interviews of homeowners being ‘kicked out’ of their foreclosed homes, and the associated ACORN/SEIU protesters.

faraway on June 14, 2012 at 11:16 AM

Furchtgott-Roth said, adding that “no-one could be more Republican than I am.”

.
Wait a minute! Hold on! The statement should be ““no-one could be more Republican conservative non-liberal than I am.” Is she a native Austrian-speaker?
.
Somehow, my concerns aren’t mollified.

ExpressoBold on June 14, 2012 at 11:16 AM

I would hope the CBO is accurate and non-partisan, too. But some of the numbers coming out of there… whew.

John the Libertarian on June 14, 2012 at 11:17 AM

“Unexpectedly” is “baked into the cake.”

de rigueur on June 14, 2012 at 11:17 AM

In some nations you can be executed for using Dave Matthews music on a website, and after listening to a few of his tunes I can understand why.

Bishop on June 14, 2012 at 11:14 AM

Aw. What about their commentary on the current Administration?

de rigueur on June 14, 2012 at 11:20 AM

Did weekly jobless claims “unexpectedly” rise last week?

…is the Pope Catholic?

KOOLAID2 on June 14, 2012 at 11:23 AM

Based upon their track record, I would say that the average person just guessing could do as well on average as these economists.

I mean, what did they miss by last week, like 100,000? How the hell do you miss by 100k jobs? That like betting it will be a close game then losing by 21 and still saying you are a “trusted expert” on betting lines.

mitchellvii on June 14, 2012 at 11:25 AM

I just don’t know if I agree with Ed and others that “unexpectedly” reveals any sort of bias, or if it does, that it somehow favors the Dem narrative.

If I’m the sales manager and I tell my boss sales will be down 3% this quarter and that’s where they come in, he’ll say “Yeah, well, that was expected, wasn’t it?” But if I told him they’d be up and they declined, he’ll say “WTF happened?”

Is the Obama narrative so different? “The economy is in recovery, the jobs picture is improving…” Hey buddy, things “unexpectedly” got worse…what happened, genius?

My greater concern is that the MSM trumpets the declines in weekly claims but doesn’t mention the jumps. I didn’t see anything about the rise in claims in any of the MSM sites. Not that’s it’s earth-shattering news, but just a hunch that they more often report improvements.

bobs1196 on June 14, 2012 at 11:26 AM

P. Monk on June 14, 2012 at 11:08 AM

Thanks.

Bishop on June 14, 2012 at 11:14 AM

You don’t have to listen. :-)

You know that I have a diverse readership and I just can’t put 70-80s music on the blog. I span 4 decades of music, which is longer than I’ve been alive, so give me credit for trying. Personally, I love DMB. To each, her own. :-)

PS: I put up The Clash, The Black-Eyed Peas, and The Smiths last night. How’s that for variety?

Resist We Much on June 14, 2012 at 11:30 AM

PS: I put up The Clash, The Black-Eyed Peas, and The Smiths last night. How’s that for variety?

Resist We Much on June 14, 2012 at 11:30 AM

Jimi, Deep Purple, The Who, Clapton, and Steppenwolf. If not then are failing. FAILING, I SAY!

Bishop on June 14, 2012 at 11:33 AM

Jimi, Deep Purple, The Who, Clapton, and Steppenwolf. If not then are failing. FAILING, I SAY!

Bishop on June 14, 2012 at 11:33 AM

I have tonnes of The Who & Jimi on it. One Deep Purple and Clapton.

Resist We Much on June 14, 2012 at 11:36 AM

Julia?

faraway on June 14, 2012 at 11:02 AM

We call her Fiona here.

Lots of hurt out there. Looking for jobs is tough now.

NaCly dog on June 14, 2012 at 11:57 AM

Obama to Goshen: “So what percentage of people are unemployed?”

Goshen to Obama: “What percentage would you like?”

Obama to Goshen: “You’re hired!”

Deano1952 on June 14, 2012 at 11:58 AM

I question the timing and smell a rat. Anyone know why Obama is nominating someone new to run BLS at this point in time? Did someone unexpectedly “retire”?

Not to worry Ed. If the data coming out of BLS starts looking suspicious just remember it’s only evolving.

fogw on June 14, 2012 at 12:57 PM

Look forward to Erica ‘fixing’ the numbers. She’ll come up with a ‘new and improved’ method that ‘more accurately’ reflects Barry’s sense of reality.

Unemployment numbers will be below 8% when she’s done.

GarandFan on June 14, 2012 at 1:24 PM

Love the cover photo you guys keep using on these reports – it says so many different things about what is currently wrong with this country – thanks to the libtards.
1) Of course spotlights the lousy economy and employment opportunities.
2) Professional student with no real-world skills.
3) “Over qualified” or better yet “over educated” but not willing to accept a job that may be “below him”.
4) That many years in school and that many degrees are not worth what you paid for them.
5) What kind of degrees does he have that he can’t find a job? (see #4) Liberal Arts of any kind = “Would you like fries with that?”
6) Possible OWS type who expects someone else to give him a job.
7) Apparently no job of any kind, so that means he’s living on other peoples’ money and generosity – and/or our tax money.

What else do any of you see in that photo?

dentarthurdent on June 14, 2012 at 1:54 PM

Three remarks

The “unexpectedly” remarks have to do with the projections of economists. The fact that they are as accurate as tossing chicken bones is not relevant.

I have my bones with our POTUS, but I don’t believe that he cooks the books on unemployment. If he did, the numbers would look much better.

Probably due to the stupidity I have suspected in POTUS for some time, he is not even taking the step of really wild monetary moves to save himself.


DJ BIG PICTURE: High U.S. Jobless Claims Complicate Fed Decisions

–Jobless claims unexpectedly rise 6,000 to 386,000 in the latest week

–Sluggish labor markets raise pressure on Fed to add more stimulus

–But action is unlikely at next week’s meeting

By Kathleen Madigan

Like gnats buzzing a picnic, the high level of jobless claims keep pestering Federal Reserve policymakers.

When new filings for jobless benefits began to rise in early April, the uptrend was blamed on temporary factors like the payback after warm weather boosted hiring in the winter, higher energy costs and problems in the seasonal adjustments around Easter.

But claims remain perniciously high. In the week ended June 9, they unexpectedly increased 6,000 to 386,000.

The gain is another sign that U.S. labor markets–which looked solid around the turn of the year–have run out of gas. Economists at TD Securities estimate claims at the current level are consistent with monthly payroll growth of about 100,000, too slow to bring down the jobless rate.

Weak labor markets have vexed policymakers and are the strongest argument for taking further action to lift economic growth.

Yet how much the Fed can do is unclear. That is because uncertainty seems to be causing businesses to keep a close eye on payrolls. Monetary policy is ill-equipped to battle this drag, especially since so much of it is coming from unusual sources.

“We expect that claims will probably hover in the same 370,000 to 390,000 range for a considerable period until business confidence improves and the uncertainty generated by Europe and Washington begins to clear,” say economists at Jefferies.

Even cheaper energy hasn’t helped, says Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.

He points out gasoline prices have fallen for two months, and “we need to see signs that this is starting to change companies’ views of the future economy and, hence, their willingness to hold onto marginal employees a while longer.”

Despite signs of sagging labor markets, most economists do not expect the Fed to announce more stimulus at its June 19-20 policy meeting. But one key clue to how policymakers are leaning for future moves will be the post-meeting release of new economic growth and inflation forecasts.

The “future” is getting shorter for the Fed, however.

Jim Baird, chief investment strategist for Plante Moran Financial Advisors, notes the Fed has historically taken a stand against policy moves too close to a presidential election such as the one scheduled for Nov. 6.

“If that is to be the case in this cycle as well,” he warns, “the window for action is quickly closing.”

(Kathleen Madigan, a special writer, is the primary author of the Big Picture column. She covered the economy for almost two decades at BusinessWeek and worked in the economics departments at several Wall Street firms.)

Write to Kathleen Madigan at kathleen.madigan@dowjones.com

(TALK BACK: We invite readers to send us comments on this or other financial news topics. Please email us at TalkbackAmericas@dowjones.com. Readers should include their full names, work or home addresses and telephone numbers for verification purposes. We reserve the right to edit and publish your comments along with your name; we reserve the right not to publish reader comments.)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 14, 2012 13:41 ET (17:41 GMT)

2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Back to All Articles
Jun 14 2012 1:41:00 PM

Thursday, June 14 (TODAY)
8:30AM
US:Current Account
Actual: $-137.3BForecast: $-132.3BPrev: $-124.1B
9:45AM
US:Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index
Actual: -36.4Forecast: Prev: -37.6
10:30AM
US:EIA Natural Gas Report
Actual: 67bcfForecast: bcfPrev: 62bcf
4:30PM
US:Fed Balance Sheet
Actual: $BForecast: $BPrev: $9.3B
4:30PM
US:Money Supply
Actual: $BForecast: $BPrev: $-2.8B
impact: low med high

IlikedAUH2O on June 14, 2012 at 2:05 PM

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/americans-bush-still-more-blame-obama-economy-143913248.html

beautiful.

BE SCARED……..very.

Automatic 45% re-elect # for President Whine-all-the-Time.

PappyD61 on June 14, 2012 at 2:14 PM

One more week of nasty job losses. When do we call it a depression?

386,000 more workers who wont find a job for six months or more. Awful.

I hope she’s correct. I rely on BLS data for a lot of my analysis, and they have a very good reputation for getting things right — or at least as right as they can.

The concern I have is this: They have the press there in their protected data room – lock down where the BLS appointees can assist the press to “frame” the report. Not that the LSM needs much help with verbal gymnastics.

They have been experts at grinding out propaganda. Just look at all the practice they get! Week after week after week after dismal week.

Will the stench of what they do ever reach a level where they cannot stand the smell?

dogsoldier on June 14, 2012 at 2:36 PM

That guy appears to be very proud of having ZERO basic job skills or experience.

jukin3 on June 14, 2012 at 2:37 PM

Somebody should have asked this dull tool kid who he voted for in the last election. Read in the WSJ today that skilled plant workers at Bosch and other evil corporations make $22 bucks an hour to start after apprentice training. I wonder if this genius (who hasn’t probably yet realized that college is highly over-rated) would trade a couple of worthless degrees in for chance to program a CNC turning center for $50K a year?

kens on June 14, 2012 at 3:14 PM

Unexpectedly-Unexpectedly, wow! That really is bad…

rgranger on June 14, 2012 at 4:36 PM

What else do any of you see in that photo?

I see a photo shoot for a magazine article. (Answer: yes, we are training too many scientists. The article is from 2006 and that was old news even then.)

The fellow with the sign is a real scientist, but he had a job. There’s a follow-up here.

Angie Schultz on June 14, 2012 at 6:08 PM

I have to say about the guy on the image on the front page:

If you’ve had 3 post-docs, then you really weren’t wanted and you clearly suck at whatever joke field you’re in. Your Ph.D. was likely gotten by attrition.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on June 15, 2012 at 12:33 AM

If you’ve had 3 post-docs, then you really weren’t wanted and you clearly suck at whatever joke field you’re in. Your Ph.D. was likely gotten by attrition.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on June 15, 2012 at 12:33 AM

Ditto. Sounds like a guy who’s afraid of the real world. He’s probably incapable of holding a real job. Phd, piled higher & deeper.

rcl on June 15, 2012 at 1:18 AM