Story URL:
Story Retrieval Date: 4/17/2015 11:27:38 AM CST

Top Stories

Initial jobless claims average rises to highest level since January

by Alexandra Chachkevitch
April 26, 2012

Jobless claims graph

Alexandra Chachkevitch/MEDILL

Initial jobless claims have been up for the past three weeks while the continuing claims keep dropping.


Climbing for the third straight week, the four-week moving average of Americans filing initial claims for unemployment rose to its highest level since January.

Seasonally-adjusted claims increased by 1.7 percent in the four weeks ended April 21 to 381,750 from 375,500 in the period ended a week earlier, according to the Department of Labor.

But the number of initial claims last week fell to 388,000 from the previous week’s 389,000, and some economists predict a further drop.

At the same time the four-week moving average of continuing claims, or the overall number of insured unemployed, dropped to 3.31 million from 3.32 million, continuing its downward trend.

Illinois, Indiana and seven other states showed a drop in unadjusted initial claims for the week ended April 14. Indiana’s indicator fell by 3,341 due to fewer layoffs in the manufacturing industry, and Illinois’ number decreased by 1,991.

Washington state, with a drop of 5,700, and Pennsylvania, with a drop of 5,362, showed the most improvement in the job market. New York, with a 3,352 increase, and California, with an addition of 3,060, showed the most initial claims.

While the job market continues to show some improvement, economists hope next week shows a decrease in the average number of initial claims.

“There is some underlying slowdown occurring in the job market,” said Sean Incremona, a senior economist with 4Cast Inc., in New York, referring to the national jump in initial claims.

He said the reported initial claims number was “a little more elevated than anticipated.” This could be a reflection of the labor market losing some momentum, he said.

But Incremona warned that the numbers can be volatile, and he said he predicts the initial claims will drop to about 375,000 next week.

Brian Jones, a senior U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York, said he also anticipates the initial claims to fall to about a 360,000-365,000 range next week.

Jones said he believes that the recent jump in the initial jobless claims could be attributed to the spring break in New York, which is populous enough to affect the national statistics.

The week-long vacation, which was from April 6 to April 14, coincided with the economic indicator’s growth in the past, he said.

“I’d like to see one more piece of information to be sure,” he said, referring to monitoring the next week’s numbers. “But if [the initial claims keep going up], we may be dealing with an increased number of layoffs in the country.”

The good news is that the continuing claims keep going down, indicating that some progress remains in the job market, both Incremona and Jones said.

The four-week moving average for the continuing claims, which has been dropping since July 2009, fell by 0.3 percent to 3.31 million in the week ended April 14 from the previous week’s 3.21 million.

Although expiring benefits contribute to the low number, the decrease also “means that people are finding jobs,” Jones said.