Jobless claims 470,000, average rises for 2nd week

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This is the second week running that we have seen higher jobless claims.  Two weeks ago the 4-week average seasonally adjusted number was 440,750. This was a number reflective of steadily declining claims in the period leading up to the holiday season and New Year.  However, the last two weeks have seen a marked rise in claims.  470,000 last week follows a revised 478,000 from the week prior.  Now the 4-week average stands at 456,250.

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Last week we were told this had much to do with administrative errors.  Looking at the chart above, this blip is not a major one in the trend. Nevertheless, two weeks of back to back elevated numbers demonstrates that these numbers bear watching going forward.  Average jobless claims are more stable than week-to-week numbers so, the rise of 15,500 is significant in the context of what has been a downward trend.

To put the rise in perspective, the last time we saw an uptick in the average number of 15,000 or more was February of 2009 at the depths of the downturn. And the seasonal adjustment for this past week was relatively light.  Going forward seasonal adjustments will not be severe, so the numbers will reflect the trend fairly well.  If jobless claims stay elevated, we will have to see this as a negative harbinger for future economic activity.

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