The United States Department of Labor reported that initial claims for unemployment decreased by 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 369,000 for the week ending October 20th, 2012. The report from two weeks ago was adjusted upwards from an initial 388, 000 to 392,000 as more complete data from California and other states was received. Thursday’s report was in line with expectations from Wall Street.
Over the last three weeks, initial US jobless claims reporting has had wide variations both up and down. The Department of Labor attributes the gyrations to seasonal idiosyncrasies and certain other technical issues with the Department of Labor’s weekly data, particularly from California.
However, the four week moving average which is a more reliable way of viewing initial jobless claims as it levels out swings changed almost imperceptibly, rising by 1,500 to 368,000.
The Labor Department also recorded continuing claims were down 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 3.25 million for the week ending October 13th, 2012. Continuing claims measure the number of people that are already getting unemployment benefits. People receiving a state or federal unemployment benefit, reported as total claims fell 84,525 for the week ending October 6th, 2012 compared to a week earlier. Total claims have a two-week lag in reporting.
The US jobless claims report was welcome news as it clearly signals that the labor market is becoming stronger following the extreme fluctuations in data regarding initial unemployment claims at the beginning of October.
According to an analyst with the Department of Labor all states submitted complete data for this report and the raw data reveals nothing unusual. The analyst continued by saying that there were no signs of the factors that apparently caused wild swings in the claims data from the prior two weeks.
A stubbornly high jobless rate continues to dog the United States economy. Incomes have not increased in the past five years while a great number of families carry significant debt that was incurred during the housing market crash that began at the end of the last decade.
The United States economy is starting to show a few encouraging signs. The unemployment has finally fallen below 8 percent to 7.8 percent. Retail sales have risen and consumer confidence has improved.
But, the slowly improving economy has not had much impact on the presidential race which is statistically tied between President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney. Pundits have noted that there is only one more unemployment report before the election on November 6th and many doubt that it will have much influence on voters.