NBC, Reuters: Weekly jobless claims jump “unexpected”

posted at 10:41 am on August 23, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

For those readers who wonder why I haven’t written about the weekly initial jobless claims, it’s because they haven’t produced any significant news over the last few weeks.  The changes have all been within a range that can best be described as statistical noise.  When dealing with numbers between 360K-380K, a shift of anything under 7K-8K is only meaningful to the seven or eight thousand people who did or did not have to file for benefits that week.  In other words, a statistician would expect to see those kinds of changes in this type of series.

Well, except for the statisticians at NBC, apparently, emphasis mine:

New claims for unemployment benefits took an unexpected jump in the latest week, raising more concerns about the struggling job market and providing futher incentive for the Federal Reserve to jump in and help the economy.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that seasonally-adjusted initial claims rose 4,000 to 372,000. That’s compared to a decline of 1,000 that economists on average had been expecting.

Unexpected?  This is a shift of just over 1% in a long series.  Yes, it went up rather than down, but the difference is still well under 2%.  Nevertheless, the economists at Reuters express the exact same kind of shock, shock over this change:

The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits unexpectedly rose last week, while a separate reading on U.S. manufacturing activity showed a slight improvement in August.

The weaker-than-expected weekly jobless claims suggested the labor market is healing too slowly to make much of a dent in the unemployment rate.

Well, that’s certainly true — and it would have been equally true if the number had declined by 1,000 to 367,000, too.  This series would have to get down to the 325K range to reflect substantial hiring and decline in true unemployment, which is evident when one looks at the data in this series for a number of years.  That brings us to the Associated Press report, which includes a laughable take on what I call the 400K myth (h/t Steve Eggleston and Kevin Binversie):

 The number of people seeking first-time unemployment benefits rose a slight 4,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 372,000, evidence that the job market’s recovery remains modest and uneven.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased 3,750 to 368,000.

Applications are a measure of the pace of layoffs. When they fall consistently below 375,000, it generally suggests hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

This is just nonsense on stilts.  We’ve been at the 375K range for more than a year now, both below and slightly above that mark.  Has the unemployment rate been significantly lowered?  Is it going down or up?  And has the civilian participation rate gone up or down over that period?  Christopher Rugaber usually does better work than this, but this is a big step backward in analytical credibility.

Let’s make this clear: the news today on the weekly initial jobless claims is that it’s not news, not good news or bad news.  It’s a one-week bit of statistical noise, meaningless in determining direction of employment or the economy.  For people who think it means something …

Seriously?


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I only am concerned about one particular person’s unemployment status come January next year..

Electrongod on August 23, 2012 at 10:43 AM

Ah yes , the good old “Unexpected”

Just what do “they” expect?

RockyJ. on August 23, 2012 at 10:45 AM

Waiting for the media’s ultimate “Unexpected!” on November 6th.

de rigueur on August 23, 2012 at 10:46 AM

And, so continues the UNEXPECTEDLY disastrous “presidency” of Barry Soetoro. Absolutely no one saw it coming.

Pork-Chop on August 23, 2012 at 10:47 AM

futher incentive for the Federal Reserve to jump in and help the economy.

More fake money? That’ll ‘help the economy’ like free base cocaine helps a person’s health.

forest on August 23, 2012 at 10:48 AM

The changes have all been within a range that can best be described as statistical noise.

There are at least 372,000 people who might disagree with you.

But the real story here is that Obama isn’t putting people back to work despite the fact that the public sector is doing fine.

Happy Nomad on August 23, 2012 at 10:49 AM

Seriously can’t believe that link. :)

Axe on August 23, 2012 at 10:49 AM

NBC, Reuters: Weekly jobless claims jump “unexpected”

…I JUST DON’T BELIEVE IT…!!!
This has never happened before!

KOOLAID2 on August 23, 2012 at 10:49 AM

I stopped counting a long time ago:

Reuters, 7/1/10: “New claims for U.S. jobless benefits unexpectedly rose last week…”

AP, 4/8/10: “Initial jobless claims increase unexpectedly…”

AP, 2/4/10: “The number of newly laid-off workers filing initial claims for jobless benefits rose unexpectedly last week…”

Reuters, 1/8/10: “U.S. employers unexpectedly cut 85,000 jobs…”

Christian Science Monitor, 12/17/09: “Jobless claims rise unexpectedly…”

CNNMoney.com, 12/10/09: “Unemployment claims jump unexpectedly…”

Reuters, 6/25/09: “The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless benefits unexpectedly rose last week…”

ConservativeLA on August 23, 2012 at 10:50 AM

Waiting for the media’s ultimate “Unexpected!” on November 6th.

de rigueur on August 23, 2012 at 10:46 AM

Isn’t that November 2nd?

Happy Nomad on August 23, 2012 at 10:50 AM

How does Jugears even come close in the polling? Have we, as a nation become so shallow that someone like this actually has a chance of being re-elected?

AZfederalist on August 23, 2012 at 10:50 AM

“Unexpected” has become expected.

onetrickpony on August 23, 2012 at 10:52 AM

Too much focus on and obsession with rates and numbers–and that’s all people seem to be to these poor excuses for journalists, in addition to the deadbeat WH. We’re talking about people and their livelihoods and their survival and well-being and there’s a buncha math-challenged yahoos infatuated by numbers.

stukinIL4now on August 23, 2012 at 10:52 AM

Reuters unexpectedly is still in business.

bayview on August 23, 2012 at 10:53 AM

Rather, I expect an “unexpected” revision every month… because they do it all the damn time! (As evidenced by ConservativeLA)

onetrickpony on August 23, 2012 at 10:53 AM

Applications are a measure of the pace of layoffs. When they fall consistently below 375,000, it generally suggests hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

….and we will continue to lower the bar until we can create an illusion of success for our liberal Messiah…President downgrade.

“Forward”!!!!

Baxter Greene on August 23, 2012 at 10:55 AM

Well, I expected it.

AubieJon on August 23, 2012 at 10:55 AM

We’re talking about people and their livelihoods and their survival and well-being and there’s a buncha math-challenged yahoos infatuated by numbers.

stukinIL4now on August 23, 2012 at 10:52 AM

Have you ever heard the rat-eared bastard talk about the unemployment rate? He talks about jobs as if they are units of measurement and not real people. It was this that convinced me the filthy bastard really has no empathy for anybody but himself and perhaps his grifter wife and brats.

Happy Nomad on August 23, 2012 at 10:55 AM

More fake money? That’ll ‘help the economy’ like free base cocaine helps a person’s health.

forest on August 23, 2012 at 10:48 AM

WHOA, dood are you saying that I need to put the pipe down? I just need another hit…

JFKY on August 23, 2012 at 10:57 AM

It’s a one-week bit of statistical noise, meaningless in determining direction of employment or the economy.

these folks simply do not understand data and its interpretation…….

ted c on August 23, 2012 at 10:57 AM

How about a language warning on that clip, Ed? There’s an unexpected f-bomb in there.

AScott on August 23, 2012 at 10:59 AM

Isn’t that November 2nd?

Happy Nomad on August 23, 2012 at 10:50 AM

That’s what we’re telling Biden.

de rigueur on August 23, 2012 at 10:59 AM

The number of people seeking first-time unemployment benefits rose a slight 4,000 last week…

Sorry AP, 40 is “slight”, 4000 isn’t.

Flora Duh on August 23, 2012 at 11:00 AM

But new home sales are up 3.6%. These days it seems on the economy we always have to take some good with the bad. Not good for leaving a starkly unambiguous case about the economy. But U.S. crude oil is up to $98, Brent crude $116. So, whatever happens, it seems that O is going to get it. Start prosecuting O for his war on energy. (And today Romney talks about energy?)

anotherJoe on August 23, 2012 at 11:00 AM

I expected it.

Really, I did. I’m not surprised at all!

petunia on August 23, 2012 at 11:01 AM

The only thing unexpected is that the fools at NBC continue to believe in Keynesian nonsense and the Leftist ideas about economics. No amount of evidence can convince them of he wrong they are. The Left is impervious to facts.

Charlemagne on August 23, 2012 at 11:01 AM

Ah yes , the good old “Unexpected”

Just what do “they” expect?

RockyJ. on August 23, 2012 at 10:45 AM

Lets jump inside a typical “reporters” head shall we?

:fade in::

UNEMPLOYMENT HAS GONE UP! OH NOES! WHAT WILL SAVE US FROM THIS HORRIBLE ECONOMY THAT BUSH SOMEHOW CONTINUES TO RUIN!?

::Obama flys in, riding a unicorn Pegasus::
I will stop it, with my stimulus gun! ::pew pew pew pew::
take that unemployment! ::pew pew pew:: Eat hope and change Bush! ::pew pew pew: Get outa here evil corporate corporation! we don’t want your evil 1% jobs!

Come now, tiny reporter, hop onto my steed, rest your head against my mighty pecs and let me wisk you away to Hawaii’s secret 9th island where I really run the country! AWAY UNICORN PEGASUS NAMED AFTER ME!

::fade out::

And there you go.

Gatsu on August 23, 2012 at 11:02 AM

New claims for unemployment benefits took an unexpected jump in the latest week, raising more concerns about the struggling job market and providing futher incentive for the Federal Reserve to jump in and help the economy.

There you have it, NBC effectively begging the Bernanke to print money, stat!, in order to save Obama’s ass.

TXUS on August 23, 2012 at 11:02 AM

Unexpected should be the official weasel-word at NBC and MSNBC!

pilamaye on August 23, 2012 at 11:03 AM

Maybe it’s mandatory for them to write about it. At least they didn’t try to paint it as some stellar positive step on the path set out by Obama.

Cindy Munford on August 23, 2012 at 11:04 AM

“Our plan is working.”

-Hussein

“But we’re not.”

-Americans

antipc on August 23, 2012 at 11:04 AM

It’s gotta be the economy’s fault, or why else would it be unexpected so many times? Buyers are stubbornly not spending, investors are stubbornly not investing, bankers are stubbornly not lending, and employers (those greedy folk) are stubbornly not hiring. This is how AP finance journalists rationalize this epidemic.

michaelthomas on August 23, 2012 at 11:05 AM

Muddling along; 4-week average has drifted up recently, but still well below the 400K mark. We had better news today on housing (new starts up) and the flash PMI for August shows more improvement over July, so the activity pickup that started last month is continuing. Markets trading down after flirting with 4-year highs earlier in the week … they may be responding to reports that QE3 is less likely now with the pickup and on renewed worries in Europe. We are long overdue for a correction (markets went straight up for 6 weeks after the July numbers started rolling in) … fight the fear …

TouchdownBuddha on August 23, 2012 at 11:06 AM

It’s always UNEXPECTED because leftists always take wealth creation and ensuing rising employment for granted…

Pest on August 23, 2012 at 11:07 AM

But, but but .. BillyJeff says O will improve this economy !!
Must be so !!

pambi on August 23, 2012 at 11:07 AM

That, and he’s got all those leftover stimulus dollars to spend.

antipc on August 23, 2012 at 11:08 AM

They are going into hysterics because they want to provoke QE3. It would be madness of course, but it would give a brief boost to the market and maybe the economy just in time for the election.

forest on August 23, 2012 at 11:08 AM

The MSM are shocked by this turn of events, just as they are shocked the Arab Spring has turned out so poorly, the oceans continue to warm, ObamaCare is hated, capitalism hasn’t yet yielded to Forward! and voters in the fly-over states are bitterly clinging to freedom.

The Lightbringer hasn’t been universally effective or appreciated, in other words. Unexpected!

MTF on August 23, 2012 at 11:09 AM

Gatsu on August 23, 2012 at 11:02 AM

Comment of the Day Week™.

Now to answer RockyJ’s question seriously – the “experts” expected 365K. Once the inevitable upward adjustment hits, they’ll be off by between 9K and 13K, which while significant, is still about as newsworthy as the sun rising in the east or fire being hot.

Steve Eggleston on August 23, 2012 at 11:10 AM

They are going into hysterics because they want to provoke QE3. It would be madness of course, but it would give a brief boost to the market and maybe the economy just in time for the election.

forest on August 23, 2012 at 11:08 AM

I have to debate if another QE would even give another boost, they seem to have a diminishing return every time its tried.

Not that it will stop them mind you, but still.

Gatsu on August 23, 2012 at 11:10 AM

“If I had an unemployment rate, that I didn’t help build, it would look like that.”

St Gaudens on August 23, 2012 at 11:11 AM

Let’s make this clear: the news today on the weekly initial jobless claims is that it’s not news, not good news or bad news.

I can think of at least 4,000 people who might disagree with you, Ed.

MrScribbler on August 23, 2012 at 11:12 AM

QE3, release Strategic Oil Reserves, BJ says he has a plan, blah-blah…boils down to how many Wimmins, HS Drop-outs,Unlikely Voters and Low Info Tards he can rally…will not be enough.

Landslide.

hillsoftx on August 23, 2012 at 11:13 AM

Four More Years!
Four More Years!

;-)

Do they have a weekly tracking list of how many people are newly signed up for Food Stamps?

albill on August 23, 2012 at 11:14 AM

They are going into hysterics because they want to provoke QE3. It would be madness of course, but it would give a brief boost to the market and maybe the economy just in time for the election.

forest on August 23, 2012 at 11:08 AM

Madness? It’s practically a prerequisite for the ObamiNation.

Steve Eggleston on August 23, 2012 at 11:14 AM

MrScribbler on August 23, 2012 at 11:12 AM

You did read the third sentence of the post, right?

Steve Eggleston on August 23, 2012 at 11:16 AM

I decided to make a post today… unexpectedly.

On the evening of November 6th (November 2nd for you Dems), the report will be: Romney wins unexpectedly.

3 months later, the report will be: The unemployment rate drops below 8 unexpectedly.

bbordwell on August 23, 2012 at 11:20 AM

Try and try and try, but Barack — bless his heart — couldn’t create a real job if his life depended on it.

Pass the bong, pls.

petefrt on August 23, 2012 at 11:37 AM

I usually disagree with your statistical analyses Ed when it comes to interpreting poll numbers, but on this particular issue, I think you make a great (and correct) point.

asc85 on August 23, 2012 at 11:39 AM

Wanna bet the Dems “unexpectedly” get their rear ends handed to them in November?

ConservativeLA on August 23, 2012 at 11:40 AM

NBC: New claims for unemployment benefits took an unexpected jump in the latest week,

You keep using that word, I do not think that it means what you think it means…

SWalker on August 23, 2012 at 11:43 AM

3 months later, the report will be: The unemployment rate drops below 8 unexpectedly.

bbordwell on August 23, 2012 at 11:20 AM

And the rat-eared bastard will be claiming credit.

Happy Nomad on August 23, 2012 at 11:51 AM

Is unexpected the new norm?

LtGenRob on August 23, 2012 at 11:52 AM

Is unexpected the new norm?

LtGenRob on August 23, 2012 at 11:52 AM

Does a bear dump in the woods?

Steve Eggleston on August 23, 2012 at 11:56 AM

Let’s try some MATH here kids …

Per month:

We lost 368,000 PER WEEK = 1.5 million plus
We added 168,000 jobs last month (and that’s a good month)

So, net net we are STILL losing over 1.3 million jobs per month

faraway on August 23, 2012 at 12:02 PM

Gee, I am guessing that the recent “jump” in fuel prices was also “unexpected”.

Gunlock Bill on August 23, 2012 at 12:13 PM

faraway on August 23, 2012 at 12:02 PM

You’re looking at only one side of the equation (and an incomplete side at that). You’re missing the new hires, which are inferred from the monthly employment report (small-sample survey) and the late-release Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, as well as the entire subset of those who are ineligible for unemployment insurance (again inferred from the monthly employment report, but missed in the QCEW).

Steve Eggleston on August 23, 2012 at 12:20 PM

Sunrise in east unexpected.

Akzed on August 23, 2012 at 12:23 PM

Paradoxically, at the age of “gimme”, the high unemployment rate may actually increase the number of votes for Barry, when the high number of chronically, and very likely permanently, unemployed are afraid that their last source of support will be taken away by the Republicans.

bayview on August 23, 2012 at 12:24 PM

Hey Ed, where is the red haired lady standing in the unemployment line? I haven’t seen her in a while.

tommer74 on August 23, 2012 at 1:32 PM

The reason NBC and Reuters found the report unexpected is because they have been drinking too much Kool-Ade to get their heads out of their assessed long enough to see what’s going on around them.

COgirl on August 23, 2012 at 1:49 PM

Asses. Spell check.

COgirl on August 23, 2012 at 1:50 PM

If this POS gets re-elected, we deserve what we get.

hachiban on August 23, 2012 at 1:52 PM

That word should be removed from the English language.

Journalists don’t know what it means.

itsspideyman on August 23, 2012 at 2:12 PM

If you used an expert who was surprised by the results every time he reported to you, you’d get a new expert.

Fred 2 on August 23, 2012 at 4:19 PM

Yeah, just like the backlash to Akin’s misogynist bullcr@p was “unexpected”. Give me a freaking break.

MelonCollie on August 23, 2012 at 9:06 PM

How does Jugears even come close in the polling? Have we, as a nation become so shallow that someone like this actually has a chance of being re-elected?

AZfederalist on August 23, 2012 at 10:50 AM

More or less…yes.

Take a good hard look at the opposition and conservatives are reduced to voting for in a desperate attempt to unseat the overpromoted community organizer.

MelonCollie on August 23, 2012 at 9:08 PM

If the nation’s weather forecasters were as horrible as these “employment” forecasters, why would we need them? Virtually EVERY jobs report includes the word “UNEXPECTED”. Well what kind of amateurs are doing the jobs forecast? Seriously!!! It’s like Al Roker saying…Oh my heck! Florida just got hit by a hurricane! Wiped out 3 cities!!! Didn’t see that coming…Sorry!

conservative4freedom on August 24, 2012 at 2:48 PM