US: Jobless Claims

Thu Jan 22 07:30:00 CST 2015

Consensus Consensus Range Actual Previous Revised
New Claims - Level 300K 289K to 305K 307K 316K 317K
4-week Moving Average - Level 306.50K 298.00K 300.00K
New Claims - Change -10K 19K 13K

Jobless claims have been inching higher and are not pointing to increasing strength for the January employment report. Initial claims did fall 10,000 in the January 17 week but to a 307,000 level that is just outside the high end of the Econoday consensus range (289,000 to 305,000).

The January 17 week is the sample week for the monthly employment report and a comparison with the December sample week shows a sizable 18,000 increase. The current 4-week average at 306,500 is up 6,500 from the prior week for the highest reading since way back in July. A sample-week to sample-week comparison for the average shows a 7,750 increase this month.

Continuing claims, which are reported with a 1-week lag, have also been on the increase. Continuing claims for the January 10 week rose 15,000 to 2.443 million with the 4-week average up 9,000 to 2.427 million. This average has also been on the rise and is up 8,000 from the month-ago comparison. The unemployment rate for insured workers is unchanged at 1.8 percent.

There are no special factors in today's report, one where levels are healthy but not improving.

Market Consensus Before Announcement
Initial jobless claims jumped sharply in the January 10 week, up 19,000 to a 316,000 level that's the highest since September. The 4-week average was up 6,750 to 298,000 which is about even with the month-ago comparison. Data on continuing claims, which are reported with a 1-week lag, are mixed. Continuing claims fell 51,000 in the January 3 week to 2.424 million but the 4-week average rose 12,000 to 2.415 million in a comparison that is also about even with a month ago.

New unemployment claims are compiled weekly to show the number of individuals who filed for unemployment insurance for the first time. An increasing (decreasing) trend suggests a deteriorating (improving) labor market. The four-week moving average of new claims smoothes out weekly volatility.

Jobless claims are an easy way to gauge the strength of the job market. The fewer people filing for unemployment
benefits, the more have jobs, and that tells investors a great deal about the economy. Nearly every job comes with
an income that gives a household spending power. Spending greases the wheels of the economy and keeps it
growing, so a stronger job market generates a healthier economy.

There's a downside to it, though. Unemployment claims, and therefore the number of job seekers, can fall to such
a low level that businesses have a tough time finding new workers. They might have to pay overtime wages to
current staff, use higher wages to lure people from other jobs, and in general spend more on labor costs because
of a shortage of workers. This leads to wage inflation, which is bad news for the stock and bond markets. Federal
Reserve officials are always on the look-out for inflationary pressures.

By tracking the number of jobless claims, investors can gain a sense of how tight, or how loose, the job market is. If wage inflation looks threatening, it's a good bet that interest rates will rise, bond and stock prices will fall, and the only investors in a good mood will be the ones who tracked jobless claims and adjusted their portfolios to anticipate these events.

Just remember, the lower the number of unemployment claims, the stronger the job market, and vice versa.