Weekly jobless claims fall to lowest level in 5 years

posted at 10:01 am on May 2, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Yesterday’s ADP employment report was a bust, but two other indicators out this morning ahead of tomorrow’s April jobs report look a little more promising.  Weekly initial jobless claims dropped to their lowest level in five years at 324K, a level that has correlated to significant job growth in the past:

In the week ending April 27, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 324,000, a decrease of 18,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 342,000. The 4-week moving average was 342,250, a decrease of 16,000 from the previous week’s revised average of 358,250.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.3 percent for the week ending April 20, unchanged from the prior week’s unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending April 20 was 3,019,000, an increase of 12,000 from the preceding week’s revised level of 3,007,000. The 4-week moving average was 3,055,500, a decrease of 18,000 from the preceding week’s revised average of 3,073,500.

Two years ago, I ran the numbers from nearly a decade of data to refute the Reuters/AP myth that the 400K level correlated to strong jobs growth.  (The job-growth stagnation of the last two years put paid to that myth as well.)  The numbers showed that the correlation to stronger job growth came at the 325K level.  However, it should be noted that the correlation comes with a consistent performance at that level, and that this took place in an era of 66% labor-force participation rates, too.  And, as always, correlation is not causation, and is not a perfect indicator in any sense.

Still, Gallup also sees reasons to cheer up.  Their measure of employment to population rose sharply in April, and their measure of unemployment dropped significantly as well:

The U.S. Payroll to Population employment rate (P2P), as measured by Gallup, was 44.5% for the month of April, up from 43.4% in March. This is the highest P2P rate so far in 2013, but is still more than a percentage point lower than the 45.7% seen last October, the highest P2P rate Gallup has measured since it began tracking employment in 2010. …

Gallup defines the “workforce” as adults who are working or are actively looking for work and available for employment. The U.S. workforce participation rate in April was 68.5%, an increase over both March 2013 (67.7%) and last April (67.5%).

Gallup’s unadjusted unemployment rate for the U.S. workforce was 7.4% for the month of April, down more than half a point since March 2013, and nearly a one-point drop from April 2012. This is the second-lowest monthly employment rate Gallup has measured since it began tracking employment in 2010. The lowest monthly unemployment rate Gallup has found is 7.0%, in October 2012.

Gallup’s seasonally adjusted U.S. unemployment rate for April was 7.8%, unchanged from March 2013, but down almost a full point compared with April 2012. Gallup calculates a seasonally adjusted employment rate by applying the adjustment factor the government used for the same month in the previous year. Last year, the government adjusted April’s rate upward by 0.4 percentage points, while March was adjusted downward by 0.2 points. This explains the lack of change in the adjusted employment rate, despite the decline in the unadjusted number.

In other good news, the trade gap fell to its lowest level in three years:

Finally, the March trade deficit fell more than expected, to $38.83 billion.

The trade deficit gap dropped as imports recorded their biggest decline since 2009, the latest sign of slowing domestic demand.

The Commerce Department said on Thursday the trade gap narrowed 11.0 percent to $38.8 billion – the second smallest since January 2010.

So perhaps this may be one month where ADP undershoots the actual job-growth figure.  What do you expect it to be?  I’ll guess that the unemployment rate and participation rate remain unchanged, and we’ll see 120,000 jobs added.  Take the poll on the jobs figure:


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