Jobless claims are up but you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 70,000 to 281,000 last week, the highest figure since September 2017, according to the Department of Labor.
Those figures represent a huge jump in claims but cover a period before the mass layoffs and furloughs that started this week.
Even still, the China-originating coronavirus pushed up the numbers. The Labor Department said last week’s figure were “clearly attributable to impacts from the COVID-19 virus. A number of states specifically cited COVID-19 related layoffs, while many states reported increased layoffs in service related industries broadly and in the accommodation and food services industries specifically, as well as in the transportation and warehousing industry, whether COVID-19 was identified directly or not.”
Typically, the four-week moving average is seen as a more reliable indicator of the health of the labor market because it smoothes out week-to-week volatility. That’s another rule of thumb that you can put into the back of the filing cabinet for now. The moving month average now just reflects an outdated, pre-coronavirus picture. But just in case you are wondering, this rose to rose to 232,250, up 16,500 from a week ago.
The continuing claims level edged up to just over 1.7 million. This represents people who are filing for unemployment benefits after their first week of benefits. This number is typically steady or even declining in normal economic circumstances, with some people coming onto the jobless roles and around the same number coming off. That’s unlikely now. New claims will quickly convert to continuing claims and this number will skyrocket in the coming weeks. It is reported with a week delay, however, so we might not see the huge jump until two weeks from now.