Weekly Jobless Claims Remain Eerily Low

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The U.S. Department of Labor released another round of weekly jobless claims, and again it’s rather low. Only 222,000 jobless claims were filed last week. The Bloomberg consensus estimate was 230,000, and its Econoday range was 227,000 to 235,000. Dow Jones also had its consensus estimate at 230,000 claims.

The prior week’s claims were revised down to 229,000 from 230,000. Also worth noting was a drop of 7,000 in the four-week average, which aims to smooth out weekly volatility among the seasonal adjustments, down to 226,000.

Continuing claims, which are reported with a one-week delay, fell by 73,000 to 1.875 million. The previous week’s level of continuing claims was revised up 6,000 to 1.948 million. These are claims from those who have been laid off and are making claims for more than two weeks.

The Bureau of Labor reported no special factors that would greatly skew this week’s report, but the report did indicate that claims-taking procedures in Puerto Rico and in the Virgin Islands have still not returned to normal.

While seasonal adjustments often undercut the normal claims number, the unadjusted data was even lower in the past week. The Labor Department said of its unadjusted data:

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 213,328 in the week ending February 17, a decrease of 19,477 (or -8.4 percent) from the previous week. The seasonal factors had expected a decrease of 11,927 (or -5.1 percent) from the previous week. There were 239,322 initial claims in the comparable week in 2017. … The advance unadjusted number for persons claiming UI benefits in state programs totaled 2,261,742, a decrease of 61,813 (or -2.7 percent) from the preceding week. The seasonal factors had expected an increase of 25,320 (or 1.1 percent) from the previous week.

Stocks were sharply higher on Thursday morning, perhaps a “do-over” of Wednesday’s late-day trading when stocks quickly gave up all their gains at the end of the day and proceeded to fall handily.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 150 points at 24,948 and the S&P 500 was up almost 15 points at 2,716 after more than a half hour of trading.