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Footnote: Unadjusted claims data the better picture of labor market conditions

New jobless claims are still pouring in at well over a million a week and insured claims are only coming down relative to their recent historic peak in early May. The insured rate of unemployment has settled to a lower trend level that is nothing to brag about in terms of labor market health.

I have argued since the start of the flood of filings for benefits in mid-March that looking at the seasonally adjusted data is pointless as the behavior of claims is completely unrelated to the adjustment factors. The sorts of things that drive layoffs and hirings at this time of year are a mess.

Patterns for school years, holidays, vacation plans, cycles in manufacturing, etc. are all completely out of sync with the timing and scale of job cuts. As a result, seasonally adjusting the data is pointless exercise and results in distorted headlines. Looking at the unadjusted data actually presents a smoother and more accurate picture of the behavior in the numbers for now. The data remains alarming, but a cumulative 42.833 million new claims filed on an adjusted basis is probably a more realistic figure than the 45.738 million in the adjusted data.

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