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Weekly claims: slow but gradual improvement

Weekly claims for unemployment (seasonally adjusted) were about 12K higher than expected, but that is not a significant amount. The chart above shows unadjusted (actual) claims, which fell by about 5K. This time of the year the seasonal trends are not particularly pronounced, so small variations like these are likely just random—not indicative of any meaningful change in the economic fundamentals. Comparing this week to the same week a year ago, claims are down a little over 10%, and that is the story to focus on: slow, but gradual improvement over time.

Gradual improvement in the state of the labor market also shows up in this chart of the number of people (actual, not seasonally adjusted) who are receiving unemployment benefits. The total has now dropped to a new post-recession low of 6.64 million, and that is down almost 2.5 million from the same week a year ago. The number of people working has increased by about 1.3 million over the past year, so that implies that over a million of the people who have dropped off the unemployment claim rolls are still looking for a job. That's a sorry state of affairs, but at least it means that the government is no longer subsidizing their job search. Life can be difficult at times, but government can't and shouldn't try to take care of everyone who runs into adversity.

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