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First Cut: Initial claims down 3,000 in March 2 week, settling down after government shutdown

Initial jobless claims were down 3,000 to 223,000 in the March 2 week appear to have settled into a new trend level after the noise introduced by the partial federal government shutdown. It looks like claims are hovering somewhere in the mid-220,000’s, somewhat above earlier this year, but a level consistent with a strong labor market in the historical context.

No states estimated claims in the week and the Labor Department cited no special factors.

Claims may get a bit noisy again in the coming weeks. March and April can impact workers in education services depending on the timing of the Easter holiday and when many schools take a spring break.  This year Easter falls nearly as late as is possible on April 21 and a full three weeks after the April 1 date in 2018. It is likely to throw off seasonal adjustment. Also, the Labor Department will release new seasonal adjustment factors and revised data soon, probably by the end of March.

Continuing claims were down 50,000 to 1.755 million in the February 23 week as workers affected by the shutdown continued to leave the benefits rolls. The insured unemployment rate slipped one-tenth to 1.2% after briefly rising to 1.3% in the prior week. Like initial claims, the underlying trend is reasserting itself at levels suggesting laid off workers are quickly finding new jobs or returning after a short temporary layoff.


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