Unemployment And Initial Claims: A Quick Chart

by: Michael Ashton

It was a pretty quiet day Monday, so instead of writing about the fairly boring market action (although Apple AAPL broke below $500 for a few minutes and TIPS continued their recent bounce) I wrote a book report about the book How the Trading Floor Really Works. However, because people have requested that I separate obviously unrelated posts, you can find that review here.

There is one chart I would like to share - sort of a holdover from last week that I never got around to. It shows the unemployment rate (white line) against Initial Unemployment Claims (yellow line) for the last couple of cycles. (Source: Bloomberg)

So, do you think the job market is improving? You're right! Does the job market still suck? You betcha!

There is also something different going on here, beyond the usual year-end seasonal adjustment tomfoolery. The decline in Initial Claims typically happens when the economy has stopped getting worse, and the current level is consistent with an economy that is turning jobs over at roughly the normal pace. We're not creating lots more unemployed. But the slow decline in the Unemployment Rate is a sign that we're not absorbing the existing unemployed through new growth of existing enterprises, or creation of new enterprises, as is typical in recoveries. I don't think it should come as an absolute shock that in this business-unfriendly climate, businesses are reticent to expand, even if production as a whole is expanding.