U.S. jobless claims of 652,000 show continued weakness

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Jobless claims for the week ending March 21st are in. There were 652,000 initial claims last week, bringing the unemployment roles to a record 5.56 million. Both figures are seasonally-adjusted and reflect minor changes in seasonal adjustment (SA) factors going back a few years.

What do the figures tell us? Well, the year-on-year comparisons with and without seasonal factors are now basically identical. In both measures, we are losing jobs at a pace of 300,00 more than last year at this time. This is the 10th week in a row that the NSA (non seasonally-adjusted) numbers have been at this level. In my view, this can only mean that layoffs, while high, are not rising significantly.  It also means that seasonal adjustments will be less of a factor until summer.

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On the other hand, the unemployed are finding it hard to get a job. The SA, the NSA and year-comparison numbers are all getting worse. For example, there are 3 million more people unemployed than there were at this time last year. 6 months ago, that figure was only 800,000.

Therefore, we should expect unemployment to continue to rise going forward. Nevertheless, the initial claims figures do point to a plateauing that we will continue to watch.
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Source
Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims Report – U.S. Department of Labor

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