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First Cut: Initial jobless claims mild in week including New Year’s Day

Initial jobless claims in the week ended January 4 were down 9,000 to 214,000 after 223,000 in the prior week (previously 224,000). Unadjusted claims were fewer than anticipated by seasonal adjustment factors and were up 335,210 in the week after 312,524 in the prior week. The four-week moving average fell 9,500 to 224,000 in the January 4 week, bringing the level down to what is likely close to the underlying trend.

The Labor Department cited no special factors. Claims were estimated for Puerto Rico as the island has been rocked by earthquakes since December 28.

Continuing claims were up 75,000 to 1.803 million in the December 28 week, the rise was large, but not unusually so toward the end of the year when many businesses cut back on their workforce, schools go on vacation for a few weeks, and holiday timing temporarily shuts down some activities. The insured rate of unemployment remained at 1.2% as of the December 28 week where it has been for 20 months with little and only brief exception. The unadjusted insured rate rose three-tenths to 1.5% due to the influx of workers from layoffs. However, this rise should be temporary.

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