Weekly jobless claims jump to 379K

posted at 9:21 am on December 19, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Over the last few weeks, my travels have put me out of touch with the weekly initial jobless claims metric, although I know Steve Eggleston kept Hot Air readers up to date on it. In October, the level of new claims went below the 300K barrier, at least momentarily.  Today, however, it’s back up to 379,000, about where it was eight months ago:

In the week ending December 14, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 379,000, an increase of 10,000 from the previous week’s figure of 369,000. The 4-week moving average was 343,500, an increase of 13,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 330,250.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.2 percent for the week ending December 7, an increase of 0.1 percentage point from the prior week’s unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemploymentduring the week ending December 7 was 2,884,000, an increase of 94,000 from the preceding week’s revised level of 2,790,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,799,000, an increase of 4,250 from the preceding week’s revised average of 2,794,750.

It’s the jump in the four-week rolling average that’s most troubling here.  This metric is at best an imperfectly correlative measure of job creation, where single-week figures mean nearly nothing but the long-range trends track economic growth fairly well.  The four-week average doesn’t usually move by 13K claims in a week,  and it’s difficult to see what the impetus for this might be. The economy hasn’t had a real shock over the last few months, and there isn’t a horizon event (like a tax hike) that would explain it.

The Associated Press says that layoffs are spiking nonetheless:

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. Last month, they fell to nearly the lowest level in six years, as companies cut fewer jobs. But two weeks ago, they surged 64,000 to 369,000.

Economists dismissed the spike, saying it likely reflected a later the Thanksgiving holiday, which can distort the government’s seasonal adjustments. But if the trend continues it would be a troubling sign of rising layoffs.

The issue of seasonal adjustments might be valid.  The raw, unadjusted figure for claims is actually higher at 414,002, but that’s a decline from last week of 48,196 claims.  That explanation only goes so far, though. Last year in the same week, the not-seasonally-adjusted figure was 410,429, and the adjusted figure was 366K, both lower than this year’s numbers, and the downward adjustment in this week wouldn’t be sharper than last year’s.

Sometimes this volatility comes from estimates rather than hard figures from the states, but Reuters says that’s not the case in this report:

Economists polled by Reuters had expected first-time applications to fall to 334,000 last week.

The four-week moving average for new claims, which irons out week-to-week volatility, increased 13,250 to 343,500.

Claims data continue to be plagued by seasonal volatility. Other labor market indicators have pointed to a strengthening in job growth. …

A Labor Department analyst said no states had been estimated, but noted that claims were still in a period of volatility related to the holidays.

But that’s what the 4-week average is supposed to eliminate or at least reduce, and that went sharply upward, too, thanks to the results of the last two weeks.  We’ll see soon enough, of course, and it’s best to remember that this is a metric that really only works in a series, not just a single report.  The Fed bet big yesterday on job creation with its taper on quantitative easing, and we’ll see whether they have to hedge that bet next year.


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This would be a good time to pass a disastrous budget, raise the debt ceiling, and add 20 million new low-wage citizens to the rolls.

Bishop on December 19, 2013 at 9:25 AM

Extend those benefits!

Mimzey on December 19, 2013 at 9:27 AM

Hmm… no unexpectedly. I guess the economists “rejected” took it’s place.

geojed on December 19, 2013 at 9:27 AM

Economist: I reject your reality and substitute my own!

geojed on December 19, 2013 at 9:29 AM

The hidden metric here is that there are more people crossing the border (without a job) than get fired in the same time frame. And they don’t file for unemployment.

They aren’t counted in the unemployment numbers, but they get other cash benefits nonetheless. Food stamps, housing, refundable tax credits for their 18 kids, ObamaPhones, and in-state tuition.

Who in the hell does our government support? Certainly not us.

BobMbx on December 19, 2013 at 9:29 AM

http://www.dailyjobcuts.com

Teh Bernank tapers on positive economic outlook!

Hail Yellen!

http://www.portalseven.com/employment/unemployment_rate_u6.jsp

Murphy9 on December 19, 2013 at 9:29 AM

The economy hasn’t had a real shock over the last few months, and there isn’t a horizon event (like a tax hike) that would explain it.

The reality of ocare is coming to the front now and people are the last resort of cutting costs. Businesses have crunched the numbers and have reorganized.

tim c on December 19, 2013 at 9:29 AM

2nd that Bishop

cmsinaz on December 19, 2013 at 9:30 AM

Claims data continue to be plagued by seasonal volatility. Other labor market indicators have pointed to a strengthening in job growth. …

I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy nut or anything but could it be that “other labor market indicators” are based on bogus data. I know it’s hard to imagine but maybe, just maybe, this administration is cooking the numbers to hide just how dismal they’ve done with that whole job creation thing.

Happy Nomad on December 19, 2013 at 9:33 AM

Over the last few weeks, my travels have put me out of touch with the weekly initial jobless claims metric, although I know Steve Eggleston kept Hot Air readers up to date on it.

More or less, though I didn’t cover the prior week’s jump. I attributed that to companies waiting until after Turkey Day to get rid of people.

Speaking of the prior week, the excuses from the states are in for that, and of the 28 states that had a jump of more than 1,000 initial claims the week after Thanksgiving, 4 of them mentioned job cuts in the trade industries, with 2 singling out retail trade. Guess Christmas sales aren’t going to be strong this year.

Steve Eggleston on December 19, 2013 at 9:34 AM

This would be a good time to pass a disastrous budget, raise the debt ceiling, and add 20 million new low-wage citizens to the rolls.

Bishop on December 19, 2013 at 9:25 AM

Sure why not! And just to spice things up, let’s make employers pay more for healthcare insurance or pay a penalty too.

Happy Nomad on December 19, 2013 at 9:35 AM

I attributed that to companies waiting until after Turkey Day to get rid of people.

Steve Eggleston on December 19, 2013 at 9:34 AM

Yeah because laying folks off right before Thanksgiving would be heartless. Laying them off the week before Christmas, on the other hand, just means they have more time to spend with their families! ;0

Happy Nomad on December 19, 2013 at 9:37 AM

Ammo sales should be strong now that we have to have eco friendly “green” bullets with no lead in them, I’m going to Cabbies later today to clean them out.

Reading the Army press release on their commitment to buying Earth-friendly ammo which is then used to kill people is something straight out of the Onion.

Bishop on December 19, 2013 at 9:37 AM

“unexpectedly” ?

(Somebody had to revive that golden oldie.)

Tsar of Earth on December 19, 2013 at 9:38 AM

This would be a good time to pass a disastrous budget, raise the debt ceiling, and add 20 million new low-wage citizens to the rolls.

Bishop on December 19, 2013 at 9:25 AM

Don’t forget:

- Raise the minimum wage to a gazillion dollars per hour.
- Bribe Insurance Companies with taxpayer dollars to ‘work with us’ on the OmamaCareTrainWreck against the will of taxpayers.
- etc.

Tsar of Earth on December 19, 2013 at 9:40 AM

Reading the Army press release on their commitment to buying Earth-friendly ammo which is then used to kill people is something straight out of the Onion.

Bishop on December 19, 2013 at 9:37 AM

We’ve gone from an army filled with warriors to an army filled with little boys sitting around in onesies drinking hot chocolate and talking about their feelings.

Happy Nomad on December 19, 2013 at 9:42 AM

geojed on December 19, 2013 at 9:27 AM

Oops. I should read before posting, huh.

Tsar of Earth on December 19, 2013 at 9:43 AM

The size of the jump is surprising, but an increase isn’t exactly atypical for December.

Right now, corporations everywhere are preparing their budgets for 2014. They’re looking at their projected expenses, which include Obamacare and taxes. And they’re looking at their projected revenues. And they’re looking at the fiscal results for 2013 and comparing them with the projections made last December. Then they’re saying, “ok, we want a 10% profit margin, after taxes”. This makes them realize they need to cut expenses by 10%.

What’s the easiest way to do that? Start handing out pink slips.

Chris of Rights on December 19, 2013 at 9:44 AM

Bishop on December 19, 2013 at 9:37 AM

Speaking of the new military:

The commander of the Guantanamo Bay naval base decided Wednesday to move Nativity scenes from two dining halls following complaints that the decorations improperly promoted Christianity.

This follows a similar situation at an AFB in South Carolina. In both cases intolerant and offended atheists protested that others do not respect their beliefs by quashing all dissenting faith.

It truly a shame that there wasn’t a Nativity scene set up outside the US Consulate in Benghazi. The DoD would have launched a rapid response team immediately!

Happy Nomad on December 19, 2013 at 9:48 AM

The size of the jump is surprising, but an increase isn’t exactly atypical for December.

Right now, corporations everywhere are preparing their budgets for 2014. They’re looking at their projected expenses, which include Obamacare and taxes. And they’re looking at their projected revenues. And they’re looking at the fiscal results for 2013 and comparing them with the projections made last December. Then they’re saying, “ok, we want a 10% profit margin, after taxes”. This makes them realize they need to cut expenses by 10%.

What’s the easiest way to do that? Start handing out pink slips.

Chris of Rights on December 19, 2013 at 9:44 AM

Usually those start going out this week.

Steve Eggleston on December 19, 2013 at 9:50 AM

Didn’t I read recently that we’re paying unemployment benefits to people who aren’t being counted as unemployed?

rogerb on December 19, 2013 at 9:51 AM

Everybody knows that companies don’t hire around Christmas.

/

mankai on December 19, 2013 at 9:54 AM

The guy at the DOL who’s been cooking the numbers is on vacation?

kcewa on December 19, 2013 at 9:58 AM

But, Ben said the economy is getting better so he’s going to stop the printing presses, a little.

Kissmygrits on December 19, 2013 at 9:59 AM

Economists dismissed the spike, saying it likely reflected a later the Thanksgiving holiday, which can distort the government’s seasonal adjustments. But if the trend continues it would be a troubling sign of rising layoffs.

OK that is just downright insane. How the heck would a later Thanksgiving influence layoffs? Thanksgiving has absolutely nothing to do with unemployment other than increasing it because of the Black Friday hype and increased hiring by stores for the Christmas season. These people are stupid.

Johnnyreb on December 19, 2013 at 10:01 AM

Governor Fires Firm that Found 40% Error Rate in Illinois’ Medicaid Rolls

December 18, 2013

Benjamin Yount

Illinois has fired the private company that found 40 percent of Medicaid enrollees in the state shouldn’t be in the system. Now, the state will hire hundreds of unionized, public employees to do the job.

Gov. Pat Quinn (D) signed an agreement with the state’s largest public employee union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, that will have state workers take over the review of Illinois’ 2.7 million Medicaid enrollees.

“This ruling provides the best and most efficient way forward,” Illinois Healthcare and Family Services Director Julie Hamos said in a statement.

Firm Was ‘Stunning Success’

But lawmakers say the private company, Maximus, was “a stunning success” and should have never been fired…

Hmmm…

Fallon on December 19, 2013 at 10:08 AM

Those rethuglicans and their sequester have ruined christmas. Or something!

WitchDoctor on December 19, 2013 at 10:08 AM

OK that is just downright insane. How the heck would a later Thanksgiving influence layoffs?

Johnnyreb on December 19, 2013 at 10:01 AM

Hey! Those turkey farm workers and yam sorters count too, you know!

Seriously, it’s economics. It isn’t supposed to make sense.

Happy Nomad on December 19, 2013 at 10:09 AM

It’s interesting that the media are claiming that the stock prices dropping is due to the economy improving when they excitedly claimed each day that stocks were rising that it was evidence of an improving economy.

Buddahpundit on December 19, 2013 at 10:14 AM

The economy hasn’t had a real shock over the last few months, and there isn’t a horizon event (like a tax hike) that would explain it.

Tim C is right. Because Obamacare ObamaTAX.

txhsmom on December 19, 2013 at 10:17 AM

valiant effort ed, to make chicken salad. but remember: every one of their numbers the last 5 years have been lies. no number produced by this political organization can be trusted. when all you have is a long list of made-up numbers, good luck trying to make “sense” of them.

t8stlikchkn on December 19, 2013 at 10:22 AM

It may be dawning on employers that the big push of holiday selling is a little push this year.

burt on December 19, 2013 at 10:34 AM

Happy Nomad on December 19, 2013 at 9:33 AM

Nah! They would NEVER do that. /sarc

dogsoldier on December 19, 2013 at 10:34 AM

Weekly US jobless claims hit 8-month high of 379K.
Congress votes to cut $6 billion in military retiree benefits
In other news the Obamas are about to leave on 17 day 4 million dollar vacation.
HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN!!!

Yes. I know speaking ill of Obama is all most as bad as saying Merry Christmas. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

RickinNH on December 19, 2013 at 10:43 AM

Obama gets undue credit for publication of history of total number of people employed. Much better measures are the percentages of working age people who are fully employed and of the total employed. A post of bar graphs of these properties at the end of the prior year for 2000-2013 would be very instructive.

burt on December 19, 2013 at 11:00 AM

The issue of seasonal adjustments might be valid

Which would mean (logically)that last month’s rosey numbers were totally wrong. I’m shocked.

JusDreamin on December 19, 2013 at 11:12 AM

Crummy employment numbers must be do to the Kwanzaa season and the lack of demand for white Santa’s

roflmmfao

donabernathy on December 19, 2013 at 11:29 AM

What no ‘unexpectedly’ from any of the media organizations to couch these numbers?

Which would mean (logically)that last month’s rosey numbers were totally wrong. I’m shocked.

JusDreamin on December 19, 2013 at 11:12 AM

There remains a number of journalists who are looking into the reports that BLS job information, and Census data, were ‘cooked’ by the Obama Administration in an effort to paint a far rosier picture of the economy and jobs than actually existed.

The recession officially ended in June 2009. I doubt anyone can make a cogent and valid argument today that the economy is in a robust recovery. It remains extremely fragile, smothered in many ways by the policies of the Obama Administration which are largely anti-business, anti-growth, and overly controlling.

Athos on December 19, 2013 at 11:34 AM

Using ObamaMath this will drive the Unemployment Rate to record lows.

pat on December 19, 2013 at 11:43 AM

Fallon on December 19, 2013 at 10:08 AM

It’s the Illinois way. You get what you vote for, I feel nothing for the taxpayers of that state.

rottenrobbie on December 19, 2013 at 11:56 AM

Something is going on that Wall Street has not yet sniffed.

The state in which I live … tax revenues are down from projected for the last three months, with November being significantly down.

Unemployment spiking up and state tax revenues spiking down … and Wall Street going crazy up? Something is amiss.

Carnac on December 19, 2013 at 12:47 PM

Reading the Army press release on their commitment to buying Earth-friendly ammo which is then used to kill people is something straight out of the Onion.

Bishop on December 19, 2013 at 9:37 AM

It is environmentally friendly. Why do you think they call it the fertile crescent? Lots of fertilizer.

Oh, I am soooo sorry.

WryTrvllr on December 19, 2013 at 1:16 PM

Weekly jobless claims jump to 379K

“Thank you, President Obama!”

Dr. ZhivBlago on December 19, 2013 at 4:31 PM