Weekly jobless claims jump 34,000 to 386K

Last week, I warned readers that the Independence Day holiday always plays hob with reporting on the weekly initial jobless claims data, which is why the measure dropped to 350K last week, its lowest reading in four years.  This week’s report puts the measure back on the same track it has held most of the year, rising 34,000 to jump back up to 386,000 — which includes the now-indispensable upward revision of 2,000:

In the week ending July 14, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 386,000, an increase of 34,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 352,000. The 4-week moving average was 375,500, a decrease of 1,500 from the previous week’s revised average of 377,000.

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

The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending July 7 was 3,314,000, an increase of 1,000 from the preceding week’s revised level of 3,313,000. The 4-week moving average was 3,311,750, an increase of 1,000 from the preceding week’s revised average of 3,310,750.

Reuters manages to avoid the “U” word while still noting that the results exceeded expectations — by more than 20,000:

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rebounded last week, pushing them back to levels consistent with modest job growth after a seasonal quirk caused a sharp drop the prior period.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 34,000 to a seasonally adjusted 386,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior week’s figure was revised up to 352,000 from the previously reported 350,000.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 365,000 last week. The four-week moving average for new claims, a better measure of labor market trends, fell 1,500 to 375,500.

The market lost some earlier gains after the announcement:

U.S. stock index futures pared some of its earlier gains Thursday after the weekly jobless claims rose more than expected and as investors digested a bag of mixed earnings reports.

Jobless claims jumped 34,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 386,000, according to the Labor Department. Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 365,000. The four-week moving average for new claims fell 1,500 to 375,500.

Frankly, I don’t see this as much of a change at all.  July has unique issues for this metric, with automaker furloughs more the norm than the exception, as well as the reporting difficulties over one of the truly national holidays in the year.  Skip last week’s result and we end up with a remarkably stable series: 386K, 374K, 388K, 392K, 389K  for the last five weeks apart from the holiday week report.  That would average out to 386K — which is exactly what we have today, at least until next week shows an upward revision in this number.

The big takeaway isn’t that the jobs situation got appreciably worse, it’s that it stayed the same as it has been since the start of the second quarter.  That is bad news, but not in the way this artificial jump would suggest.