The Department of Labor is reporting that initial claims for unemployment insurance rose to 380,000 last week, an increase of 13,000 over the previous week’s revised figure. The four-week moving average, a measure preferred by many analysts because it smooths out volatility, was 368,500, an increase of 4,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 364,250.
The general rule is that a level of unemployment claims below 375,000 is associated with dropping unemployment levels; that being the case, last week’s figure of 380,000 is not good news, especially coming on the heels of last week’s weak jobs report. However, there’s a reason we look at the four-week moving average—weekly numbers do have a lot of volatility, so the question is whether this week’s number signals the beginning of a trend. Though this is the highest level of unemployment claims we’ve seen since January, not all that many months ago it would have looked like good news.
This blog originally appeared in Daily Kos Labor on April 12, 2012. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos. She has a PhD in sociology from Princeton University and has taught at Dartmouth College. From 2008 to 2011, she was senior writer at Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.