Before you get too excited about the latest Weekly Jobless Claims Report, read this. Jobless claims fell by 26,000, to 350K, perhaps raising an eyebrow or two since it was the best such data since March of 2008, and at the strangest time for it. Before long, though, pundits and the press were attributing the improvement to another factor, which was at least partly to blame.
Jobless claims improved because plant operators like Ford (F) and General Motors (GM) pushed forward their regular summer shutdowns. Since the Jobless Claims data is seasonally adjusted, it accounted for the seasonal shutdowns without some of them occurring and perhaps erroneously deflated the jobless count in the process. When combined with the impact of a strangely placed Independence Day holiday in the center of the week, it sent the data askew. For that reason, wait a while before celebrating the latest jobless claims dive.
The best sign that something was wrong could be found in the movement of the employment services group. The shares of Robert Half International (RHI), Korn Ferry International (KFY), Kelly Services (KELYA), Monster Worldwide (MWW) and Manpower (MAN) were lower from 0.6% to 4.5% on the day Thursday.
The rest of the report showed the weekly decrease impacted the four-week moving average as well, as it fell 9,750, to 376,500, for the week ending July 7. For the week ending June 30, the insured unemployment rate held at 2.6%. For the week ending June 23, the total number of people receiving benefits of some sort, including through the extensions program, rose by 17,011, to 5.874 million.
As far as the weekly flow of jobless claims go, you can expect more noise to enter the picture when the plant operators actually do shut down and it goes unaccounted for. So, in other words, this data point could get messy again this summer.
For your information:
The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending June 23 were in Puerto Rico (4.1), Alaska (3.9), Pennsylvania (3.8), Connecticut (3.5), California (3.4), New Jersey (3.4), Rhode Island (3.3), Illinois (3.1), Oregon (3.1), Nevada (3.0), and the Virgin Islands (3.0).
The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending June 30 were in New York (+4,473), Kentucky (+2,252), Michigan (+1,742), California (+1,045), and Oklahoma (+843), while the largest decreases were in Florida (-3,724), Texas (-2,196), Pennsylvania (-2,113), Massachusetts (-1,325), and Maryland (-806).
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.