Weekly jobless claims above 380K for second week

As if the Obama administration didn’t have enough problems with economic indicators, the Department of Labor gave them another headache.  The upward spike two weeks ago in initial jobless claims doesn’t look like a fluke:

In the week ending April 14, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 386,000, a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 388,000. The 4-week moving average was 374,750, an increase of 5,500 from the previous week’s revised average of 369,250.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.6 percent for the week ending April 7, unchanged from the prior week’s unrevised rate of 2.6 percent.

The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending April 7 was 3,297,000, an increase of 26,000 from the preceding week’s revised level of 3,271,000. The 4-week moving average was 3,317,750, a decrease of 21,500 from the preceding week’s revised average of 3,339,250.

Officially, the number of initial weekly jobless claims fell last week by 2,000 — but to 386,000 claims, which is 6,000 above the level announced last week.  That number got revised this week, but the real story is in the 4-week rolling average.  Just three or four weeks ago, that number was in the 360K range.  Now it’s close to 375K, roughly the same level as last spring’s stagnant economic conditions.

Reuters headlines the drop, but reports on the disappointing results:

New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits fell less than expected last week, according to a government report on Thursday that could dampen hopes of a pick-up in job creation in April after March’s slowdown.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 386,000, the Labor Department said. The prior week’s figure was revised up to 388,000 from the previously reported 380,000.

The four-week moving average for new claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends, rose 5,500 to 374,750.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims falling to 370,000 last week.

Their economists had bet that last week’s results were an outlier, which wasn’t an unreasonable assumption.  This, however, looks like an upward movement in job churn, not a good sign for overall employment.  It’s interesting that we’re seeing that now rather than last month, where jobless reports ran in the mid-360Ks but job creation got stymied at only 120,000 for the month.  If this indicator continues at the mid-380K level or starts rising above it, April’s jobs report may make March look positively cheery.

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David Strom 6:41 PM on January 26, 2023