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Gene Balas

Gene Balas, CFA is the Chief Investment Strategist for East End Wealth Management, where he forecasts economic conditions to develop investment strategy to manage fixed income and multi-asset...

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Jobless Claims Jump 28,000 to 385,000

After Wednesday's disappointing report from ADP that employers added just 158,000 new jobs vs. expectations for about 200,000 new jobs, data from the Department of Labor Thursday showed that unemployment claims increased sharply from the previous week.

In the week ending March 30, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 385,000, an increase of 28,000 from the previous week's unrevised figure of 357,000. Two weeks prior, claims were 341,000, and Wednesday's figures are above the year-ago level of 368,000 claims. Analysts were expecting claims to drop to 353,000 in Thursday's data.

The 4-week moving average was 354,250, an increase of 11,250 from the previous week's unrevised average of 343,000 and the 340,750 level of March 16.

Clearly, initial jobless claims are moving in the wrong direction. Combined with the lower-than-expected new jobs from the ADP survey, and it might appear that the labor market is losing momentum for job creation. Initial unemployment claims tends to be a first glimpse of the direction of the labor market, though these data fall after the “reference week” for when the Bureau of Labor Statistics conducts its twin surveys of households and businesses to compile the non-farm payroll report due on Friday.

The Department of Labor did not note any special circumstances with tabulating claims this week.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.4 percent for the week ending March 23, unchanged from the prior week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending March 23 was 3,063,000, a decrease of 8,000 from the preceding week's revised level of 3,071,000.

The 4-week moving average was 3,067,250, a decrease of 10,500 from the preceding week's revised average of 3,077,750. Some of these unemployed people transition to emergency unemployment benefits.

States reported 1,799,625 persons claiming EUC (Emergency Unemployment Compensation) benefits for the week ending March 16, a decrease of 106,699 from the prior week. There were 2,815,108 persons claiming EUC in the comparable week in 2012.

The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending March 16 was 5,288,614, a decrease of 167,165 from the previous week. There were 7,050,710 persons claiming benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2012.

Note that a decrease in those receiving extended and emergency unemployment benefits does not necessarily mean that these unemployed found jobs. Some may have seen their benefits expire, while others may have discontinued their job search, making them ineligible for unemployment, such as if they go back to school or attend to family obligations.

The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending March 16 were in Alaska (5.7 percent), Puerto Rico (4.4), New Jersey (4.0), Rhode Island (4.0), Pennsylvania (3.9), Connecticut (3.8), Montana (3.8), Wisconsin (3.7), California (3.6), and Massachusetts (3.6).

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending March 23 were in California (+8,712), Texas (+2,736), Kansas (+1,611), Arkansas (+1,542), and Pennsylvania (+1,448), while the largest decreases were in Virginia (-1,117), Massachusetts (-804), South Carolina (-602), Puerto Rico (-529), and North Carolina (-503).

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