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Claire Norman/MEDILL

Jobless claims data is being impacted by a processing glitch in California and the federal government shutdown.

Jobless claims drop less than expected on federal worker filings and California backlog

by Claire Norman
Oct 17, 2013

First-time claims for state unemployment benefits fell a smaller-than-expected 15,000 to 358,000 in the week ended Oct. 12, but the data continues to be influenced by a backlog in California and government furloughs.

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had predicted a larger decline to 335,000 from the previous week’s revised 373,000.  

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, claims made by furloughed federal civilian employees totaled 70,068 in the week ended Oct. 5, up 68,677 from the prior week.
Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial, wrote in a note that there was “no evidence that a lot of government workers had applied for unemployment insurance” and added it would be “hard to justify filing if on furlough and within a week of guaranteed back pay.”  

Swonk noted there were problems with the data “being incomplete” because of continued fallout from one state’s computer glitch.

California continues to work through a backlog of claims that were not processed in earlier weeks when it experienced computer problems. This accounted for about 33,654 of the unemployment insurance claims, said the BLS.

Nathan Kelly, associate economist at Moody's Analytics, agreed that reporting glitches are making the jobless claims data hard to read at the moment.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits, or continuing claims, fell by 43,000 to 2,859,000 in the week ended Oct. 5 from 2,902,000 the previous week.