Weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance remain stable

Initial claims for regular state unemployment insurance decreased by 4,000 for the week ending November 12thThe tenth, coming in at 222,000. 226,000 was revised up last week from the initial estimate of 225,000 (see first chart). Claims have risen in four of the past eight weeks, fallen in three weeks, and unchanged in one week. When measured as a percentage of nonfarm payrolls, claims came in at 0.140 percent for the month of October, up from 0.136 in September and above a record low of 0.117 in March. Overall, the level of weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance remains very low by historical comparison (see chart two).

The four-week average rose to 221,000, up 2,000 for the week. The four-week average has been in a narrow range from 219,000 to 221,000 over the past several weeks, which indicates some stabilization (see first chart). Recently, however, job cut announcements have started to increase (see chart three). Overall, the data continues to point to a tight labor market. However, continued high rates of price hikes, an intense Fed tightening cycle, and the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine still pose risks to the economic outlook.

The number of ongoing claims for state unemployment programs was 1.260 million for the week ending October 29The tenth, an increase of 23,634 from the previous week (see chart four). Continuing state claims have risen in the past three weeks but have been constrained to a range of 1.2 million to 1.5 million since April (see chart four).

The latest results for state and federal programs put the total number of people claiming benefits across all unemployment programs at 1.287 million for the week ended Oct. 29.The tenthan increase of 24,305 from the previous week.

While the overall low level of initial claims indicates the labor market remains tight, the rise in job cut announcements is a cause for concern. A tight labor market is an important component of the economy, providing support for consumer spending. However, ever-rising high price rates are already affecting consumers’ attitudes, and if consumers lose confidence in the labor market, they may significantly reduce spending. The outlook remains highly uncertain.

Robert Hughes

Bob Hughes

Robert Hughes joined AIER in 2013 after more than 25 years in financial and economic markets research on Wall Street. Bob was previously Head of Global Equity Strategy for Brown Brothers Harriman, where he developed an equity investment strategy that combined top-down macro analysis with bullish fundamentals.

Prior to BBH, Bob was chief equity analyst at State Street Global Markets, chief economic analyst at Prudential Equity Group and chief economist and financial markets analyst at Citicorp Investment Services. Bob holds an MA in Economics from Fordham University and a BA in Business Administration from Lehigh University.

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