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Weekly Unemployment Claims Getting Healthier
On Thursday March 17, 2011, 9:45 am EDT
The Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims Report was released this morning for last week.
In the week ending March 12, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 385,000, a decrease of 16,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 401,000. The 4-week moving average was 386,250, a decrease of 7,000 from the previous week’s revised average of 393,250.
The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 3.0 percent for the week ending March 5, unchanged from the prior week’s unrevised rate of 3.0 percent.
The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending March 5 was 3,706,000, a decrease of 80,000 from the preceding week’s revised level of 3,786,000. The 4-week moving average was 3,779,000, a decrease of 58,000 from the preceding week’s revised average of 3,837,000.
Today’s number was very close to the Briefing.com consensus expectation of 386,000 claims.
As we can see, there’s a good bit of volatility in this indicator, which is why the 4-week moving average (shown in the callouts) is a more useful number than the weekly data.
Occasionally I see articles critical of seasonal adjustment, especially when the non-adjusted number better suits the author’s bias. But a comparison of these two charts clearly shows extreme volatility of the non-adjusted data, and the 4-week MA gives an indication of the recurring pattern of seasonal change in the second chart (note, for example, those regular January spikes).
Because of the extreme volatility of the non-adjusted weekly data, a 52-week moving average gives a better sense of the long-term trends.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides an overview on seasonal adjustment here (scroll down about half way down).