Thursday, 22 of February of 2018

Economics. Explained.  

Initial Unemployment Claims

February 15, 2018

Initial unemployment claims rose 7 thousand to 230 thousand in the week ending February 10 after having declined 7 thousand in the previous week.  .The 4-week moving average is at 229 thousand which remains essentially at the lowest average since March 10, 1973 when it was 222 thousand.

Ordinarily, with initial unemployment claims (the red line on the chart below, using the inverted scale on the right) at 229 thousand  we would expect monthly  payroll employment gains to exceed 300 thousand.  However, employers today are having difficulty finding qualified workers.  As a result, job gains are significantly smaller than this long-term relationship suggests and are currently about 190 thousand.

With the economy essentially at full employment, employers will have steadily increasing difficulty getting the number of workers that they need.  As a result, they will be forced to offer some of their part time workers full time positions.  This series is still a bit high relative to where it was going into the recession.

They will also have to think about hiring  some of our youth (ages 16-24 years) .  But the youth unemployment rate today is the lowest it has been in 17 years so there are not many younger workers available for hire.

Finally, employers may also consider some workers who have been unemployed for an extended period of time.  But these workers do not seem to have the skills necessary for today’s work place.  Employers may have to offer some on-the-job training programs for  those whose skills may have gotten a bit rusty.  But even if they do, the reality is that the number of discouraged workers today is quite low — roughly in line with where it was going into the recession.

The number of people receiving unemployment benefits rose 15 thousand in the week ending February 3 to 1,942 thousand after having risen by 29 thousand in the previous week.  The four week moving average declined 6 thousand to 1,942 thousand which is somewhat higher than the lowest level thus far in this cycle (1,889 thousand) and also close to the lowest reading January 12, 1974 (when it was 1,881 thousand).   The only way the unemployment rate can decline is if actual GDP growth exceeds potential.  Right now the economy is climbing by about 2.5%; potential growth is  projected to be about 1.8%.  Thus, going forward  the unemployment rate will continue to decline slowly.

Stephen Slifer


Charleston, SC

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