Crescenzi: What the Jobless Stats Say

Initial jobless claims fell 5,000 to 381,000 in the week ended June 14th; forecasts were for a reading of 375,000. Jobless claims have been trending upward, albeit very slowly, but they remain low enough to suggest the contraction in the economy has thus far been shallow.

For example, by comparison, during the 1990-1991 recession claims averaged 430k per week, and that tally occurred when the population was much lower. Adjusting for population growth, claims during the 1990-1991 recession averaged close to 500k. During the 2001 recession, claims averaged 416k, which equates to closer to 440k today. During both recessions, claims went above 500k for a single week.

Continuing claims fell from a 4-year low, falling 76k in the week ended June 6th (these data are released with a 1-week lag), to 3.060 million. The drop was the most since the week ended February 1st. There was no explanation provided by the Department of Labor. A rational explanation could be that many recipients saw their benefits run out, as benefits last for only six months--it was six months ago that the number of jobless claims recipients began to rise.

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Tony Crescenzi
Tony Crescenzi

Tony Crescenzi is the Chief Bond Market Strategist at Miller Tabak + Co., LLC where he advises many of the nation's top institutional investors on issues related to the bond market, the economy and other macro-related issues. Crescenzi makes regular appearances on financial television stations such as CNBC and Bloomberg, and is frequently quoted across the news media. He is also the co-author of the just-revised "The Money Market" and "The Strategic Bond Investor."