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Initial Weekly Jobless Claims were reported this morning for the period ending August 25, 2012. The latest data showed claims stuck at 374,000 through the period, ahead of economists' expectations for 370K, though matching the prior week's flow of claims. However, the four-week moving average shows jobless claims continued to creep higher, with the average up 1,500, to 370,250. The close of August is a slow period for all business activity, especially just ahead of the Labor Day weekend. Over recent weeks, I've been warning that the claims count should creep back up over 400K, leading to one fateful Thursday morning stock selloff. Thus, I half jokingly stated, "Sell Stocks on Wednesday Afternoons" as a trading strategy. September and October are shaping up as a more likely time for a shift toward that end.

The Claims Report showed insured unemployment unchanged at 2.6% for the lagged period ending August 18. The number of people insured and unemployed decreased by 5,000 and numbered about 3.3 million people. The four-week moving average for insured unemployment increased by 9,000, and was a bit higher than the weekly data indicated. The number of Americans covered by some sort of benefit, including through the extensions program, decreased by 62,253 in the period ending August 11, to 5.5 million. Of course, this figure decreases for more than one reason, as Americans fall out of qualification for benefits and as a few of them actually get jobs.

The shares of employment services firms pay close mind to the weekly data, and are curiously lower today despite the lack of change.

Company & Ticker

Thursday's Start (10 AM)

Robert Half (RHI)

-1.1%

Korn Ferry (KFY)

-0.7%

Monster Worldwide (MWW)

-1.3%

Manpower (MAN)

-1.1%

Kelly Services (KELYA)

-0.7%

If I'm right, America's largest employers will likely be doing most of the firing, but only because they employ the most people per company. In actuality, America's small businesses are the most important of our employers. The largest employers are by no coincidence also companies that provide value services or necessities, including Wal-Mart (WMT), McDonald's (MCD), Target (TGT) and Kroger (KR).

This week's leading layoff newsmakers, either firing, planning cuts or rumored to be about to declare layoffs included Lexmark International (LXK), Schnitzer Steel Industries (SCHN), Boston Scientific (BSX), Lockheed Martin (LMT), RealNetworks (RNWK), Rockwell Collins (COL) and Sony (SNE).

For your information, I often like to include the individual state and territorial information from the report:

The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending August 11 were in Puerto Rico (4.4), the Virgin Islands (4.1), Pennsylvania (3.9), New Jersey (3.8), Connecticut (3.6), Alaska (3.6), California (3.4), Rhode Island (3.1), New York (3.0), and Nevada (3.0).

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending August 18 were in Michigan (+2,383), Florida (+1,558), Colorado (+781), South Carolina (+774), and Texas (+517), while the largest decreases were in California (-5,549), Ohio (-1,379), Oregon (-1,098), Wisconsin (-539), and Virginia (-480).

Source: Weekly Initial Jobless Claims Report