Jobless claims drop on estimated numbers

Earlier today, the Department of Labor announced that the number of initial jobless claims dropped 27,000 from last week’s figures, which the AP reported as a “two-month low” in the weekly figure.  That is accurate, but hardly significant over the long haul, as it falls well within the range of initial jobless claim figures for the entire year.  The new data has been included in this chart showing the reported IJC figures in 2010:

Also, Bloomberg notes that these figures do not come entirely from state reports, as usually happens.  Since the Labor Day holiday kept government offices closed, nine states didn’t have their claim figures ready in time for the DoL.  Instead, California and Virginia estimated their claims, and the DoL estimated the claims for seven other states — in other words, made educated guesses as to the actual number of claims.   Zero Hedge picked this up, as did Drudge.

That shouldn’t surprise anyone, nor should a dip around a holiday.  Looking at the chart above, the last significant downward data point came in July — in the week after July 4th.  Holidays tend to disrupt this indicator even when seasonally adjusted.  It’s worth noting that the low figure after Independence Day did not get adjusted upward, but the following week showed an upward move back to more or less the 2010 norm.  The government does a lot of estimating in economic indicators, and this isn’t necessarily off the mark; in fact, it looks like a rather safe bet on Labor’s part.

It’s also not the good news that the AP reports, as it more or less hits that year-long average number.  In order to get good news, we’d have to see something significantly below the range that 2010’s economy has produced, much closer to the 325,000 figure that would indicate real job creation in significant numbers.  The difference between 451K and 470K is 4.2%, not exactly an indicator of large movement in job retention.

This did overshadow some mildly good news in exports, however:

The U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, through the Department of Commerce, announced today that total July exports of $153.3 billion and imports of $196.1 billion resulted in a goods and services deficit of $42.8 billion, down from $49.8 billion in June, revised. July exports were $2.8 billion more than June exports of $150.6 billion. July imports were $4.2 billion less than June imports of $200.3 billion.

In July, the goods deficit decreased $7.0 billion from June to $55.2 billion, and the services surplus was virtually unchanged at $12.5 billion. Exports of goods increased $2.8 billion to $107.7 billion, and imports of goods decreased $4.2 billion to $162.9 billion. Exports of services were virtually unchanged at $45.6 billion, and imports of services were virtually unchanged at $33.2 billion.

The goods and services deficit increased $9.7 billion from July 2009 to July 2010. Exports were up $23.7 billion, or 18.3 percent, and imports were up $33.4 billion, or 20.5 percent.

The month-on-month change in exports was 1.8%, a decent but hardly explosive or indicative of a resurgent economy.  At least it moved in the right direction after a loss of 1.3% the previous month.  The trade imbalance also improved 14%, not quite making up the 18% loss from June.

We will see whether the DoL correctly estimates the initial jobless claims in next week’s revised numbers, but it doesn’t look as though this estimate is out of line.  It’s also noteworthy for its utter unremarkable nature.