Jobless claims, as reported by the US Department of Labor, rose by 17,000 to 361,000. The initial report for the week ending on December 8th was adjusted to 344,000, and the initial report for the week ending December 15th shows that number going even higher. While the week-over-week number shows an increase, the 4-week moving average still shows a drop of 13,750 to a total of 381,500.
The initial jobless claims report has been a roller coaster lately. With super storm Sandy causing a 90,000 claim spike in November, and the holiday season affecting the number of claims thereafter; it is no wonder that it is hard to get a clear picture of the direction of the job market. There is a silver lining though. The long-term trend shows that claims have steadily been dropping the past two years. While the downward trend is not nearly as sharp as needed for a healthy growing economy, it is good news.
The number for insured unemployed last week increased slightly, to just over 3.2 million. This remains at about 2.5% of the workforce. The one week increase is not pleasant to see, however, it was small enough to keep the percentage the same, and the 4-week moving average continues to drop and is down by 33,500.
There were some trends on which areas of the country had the biggest increase in claims and the highest initial claims reports. While many of the Eastern states fared well, they did have a few that reported among the highest claims. Mountain states and Pacific states also saw increases. The mid-west and the southern states, however, were not major contributors to last week’s initial claims increase.
The debate continues in congress over what to do about the fiscal cliff. While one minute Washington seems to be making great progress toward resolving the issue, the next they seem to be back to square one. This leaves businesses skeptical that anything will get resolved, and they are showing their skepticism by holding off on hiring. In order to see true sustainable growth in the job sector, the cliff needs to be resolved so people know what to expect in the coming months.
Initial jobless claims are reported once each week, with the new report revising the numbers for the previous week. The report is seen as a more accurate picture of the employment situation than the overall unemployment rate as it measures only those initially filing claims and is not skewed by those who have given up looking for work.