WASHINGTON — The unemployment claims totals probably should be ignored due to holiday volatility.
Initial unemployment claims fell 42,000 to 338,000 in the Dec. 21 week. This decline came after two periods of highly elevated claims. There also is a chance that claims will dip again during the Christmas week, given the mid-week holiday causing offices to be partly staffed.
Initial unemployment claims at 338,000 are probably closer to trend, but the holiday period from Thanksgiving to January is unreliable for analysis purposes. A Labor Department analyst said that we are seeing the usual seasonal volatility. Seasonal adjustments are severe in early December and again in late-December and January.
About all that can be concluded is that claims remain a little higher than in Fall. Claims averaged 305,000 in September.
Continuing claims were up 46,000 to 2.923 million in the Dec. 14 week, up from 2.765 million in mid-November and a 2.795 million November average. This elevation suggests a slower labor market.
States reported 1.333 million persons on Emergency Unemployment Compensation for the Dec. 7 week. This is the program that will end at year-end, at least for a temporary period before Congress acts to extend benefits.
It might be February before claims data are analytically important.
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