Identifying the Peak in Initial Unemployment Claims

Thu, 16 Jul 2009 13:56:42 +0000

I think this morning's news release of initial unemployment claims contains some good news -- enough incremental reduction in new claims that we might be able to declare that the series peaked back in early April at a 4-week moving average of about 658,750. Here's the last 40 years of the series:

From CGG
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It is always hard to distinguish a blip from a change in course in real time, but I think the additional 14 weeks of data is enough to give us confidence that we won't see initial claims for unemployment insurance rise back to that level. So I'll take the good news for what it is.

But remember this news is and what it is not -- initial claims are a measure of acceleration, not velocity, in the labor market. The economy is not getting worse as fast as it was a few months ago. That does not mean that it is getting better day by day. In order for the news release on this series to indicate that the labor market is getting better, the level would have to fall substantially (into the mid 300,000s by my guess) from where it currently is.

Here's a post from last August when the series was on the way up.