Initial Claims Keep Moving in Wrong Direction

Initial claims for unemployment insurance rose for the third time in five weeks amid signs the economy is stalling, the Labor Department reported yesterday.

The report said for the week ending December 5, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims jumped to 853,000, an increase of 137,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The four-week moving average rose to 776,000, an increase of 35,500 from the previous week’s revised average.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate rose to 3.9 percent for the week ending November 28, an increase of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week’s unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending November 28—also known as continuing claims—rose to 5,757,000, an increase of 230,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The four-week moving average fell to 5,935,750, a decrease of 260,250 from the previous week’s revised average.

“While vaccines offer a light at the end of the tunnel, the labor market will remain under pressure in the short run as 853,000 people filed claims in the first week of December,” said Sarah House, Senior Economist with Wells Fargo Securities, Charlotte, N.C. “We can no longer think of claims being in a trend decline given the fact that they have increased in three out of the past five weeks and are higher today than at any point since September. Still, it could have been worse.”

House noted in an indication of the increased difficulty people are having finding a replacement job, continuing claims rose for the first time since they hit a peak in May. “While the details lag an additional week for continuing jobless benefits tied to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, at least through the week of November 21, the majority of those on continuing benefits were on PUA assistance,” she said.