U.S. initial jobless fall modestly, offering no new information

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If you thought jobless claims would fall off rapidly after a peak was made, you were mistaken because we seem to be in a holding pattern above 600,000.  The weekly report for unemployment insurance claims in the U.S. showed 623,000 filing a claim, with a record 6.8 million people still on unemployment insurance.  Now, mind you, these are seasonally-adjusted figures, but both numbers are still exceedingly high and point to the continued weakness in the American employment market.

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I have been focusing a lot more on the unadjusted numbers and their comparisons to year ago levels.  These figures too are quite high, but they do tell a better story.  For example, actual initial claims for the week ending May 23rd were 536,733. The 4-week average of 546K is about 220,000 higher than it was at this time last year.  On the continuing claims front, the most recent week’s data saw 6.2 million claims, a figure almost 600,000 lower than the seasonally-adjusted number.  I point this out because these adjustments are bound to be misleading at critical turning points in the economy.  The 4-week average is now 3.4 million higher than it was at this time last year.

Let’s see where this gets us when the unemployment number comes out next month.  I reckon we’ll see 9.2% easy.  However, I am going to have my eye on some different numbers: the unadjusted U-6 broad unemployment percentage and the unadjusted number of workers estimated employed and unemployed using the household survey.  To me, these will be leading indicators of how the employment market is progressing.

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