Today's Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims Report says:
In the week ending August 11, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 366,000, an increase of 2,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 364,000. The 4-week moving average was 363,750, a decrease of 5,500 from the previous week's revised average of 369,250.
Let's wade through those press releases and compare the revised numbers with original numbers:
First, the dip for week ending 7/7 and the subsequent spike for week ending 7/14 are puzzling.
The spike and dip also make the four week moving average relatively devoid of meaning until the window no longer includes the dip-spike-dip weeks. The trajectory since 7/21 seems upward for both the revised and original series.
This is seasonally adjusted data, and if the seasonal adjustment is any good, it should have controlled for any regular spikes and dips that happen during this period of the year. Therefore, these movements must represent something that is specific to those weeks.
Looking at the report for week ending 7/7, it is hard to see anything special, but the report for week ending 7/14 is revealing in that the top five states with an extraordinary increase in initial unemployment claims are New York, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania:
STATES WITH AN INCREASE OF MORE THAN 1,000
State Change State Supplied Comment NY +22,336 Layoffs in the transportation, educational service, and healthcare and social assistance industries. MI +7,602 Layoffs in the manufacturing industry. OH +5,976 No comment. PA +4,775 Layoffs in the professional, scientific, and technology service, fabricated metals, and construction. WI +5,615 No comment. KY +4,232 No comment. FL +4,087 Layoffs in the construction, administrative support service, manufacturing, wholesale trade, and retail trade industries. IN +3,576 Layoffs in manufacturing. IA +3,197 No comment. IL +2,586 Layoffs in the construction, manufacturing and administrative support service industries. AL +2,133 Layoffs in all sectors, largest increases in administrative support service, machinery manufacturing, and transportation equipment manufacturing. MO +2,080 Layoffs in the manufacturing, transportation and warehousing, and administrative support service industries. AR +1,787 No comment. NC +1,722 Layoffs in the business services, textile mill products, nonclassifiable establishments, food and kindred products, apparel, and fabricated metal products industries. WA +1,678 Layoffs in the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, utilities, manufacturing, retail trade, and educational service industries. KS +1,672 No comment. TN +1,645 Layoffs in the administrative and support service, professional, scientific, and technology services, educational service, and manufacturing industries. AZ +1,631 No comment. TX +1,324 Layoffs in the manufacturing, finance, and transportation industries. NV +1,158 No comment.
To get some perspective, let's look at weekly initial unemployment claims between January 1, 2007 and August 4, 2012 using the revised, seasonally adjusted figures:
The peak was for week ending March 28, 2009, with 667,000 initial claims filed. Clearly, initial claims have fallen from that peak. Recently, the figures have been flirting with the 390,000 line, and my gut feeling is that we're going to be meandering around there for a while. Ironically, increased election activity may create some temporary work opportunities.