October 30, 2003

Yet More Unemployment Claims Weirdness

This morning's new unemployment claims number is 386,000:

Forbes.com: US jobless claims fall in latest week: The total number of Americans filing initial jobless claims fell by 5,000 last week from a revised 391,000 the previous week, the government said on Thursday, in a sign of a convalescing U.S. job market. First-time claims for state unemployment insurance benefits fell to 386,000 in the week ended Oct. 25...

This week's number, of course, is not a "decrease": it is the same as the number announced last week, which has been revised upwards.

Posted by DeLong at October 30, 2003 06:13 AM | TrackBack

Comments

Didn't they do this last week, too? And the week before?

Posted by: Seth Gordon on October 30, 2003 07:12 AM

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Basically the level of initial unemployment claims has been unchanged for the past month. The good news is that this level is a step improvement from where we were in the first half of the year. The bad news is it is we are still a couple more step improvements away from a strong job market.

I have noticed that the number of IT job postings on Monster has resumed an upward climb the last few weeks. The numbers had been flat through September and early October after climbing steadily though July and August. Jury is still out on the the job market. Some positive signs but nothing definitive yet.

Posted by: Joe Blog on October 30, 2003 07:30 AM

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Steady jobless filings indicate that economic restructuring is continuing at a faster rate than in the late 1990s.

Posted by: bakho on October 30, 2003 08:48 AM

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How do falling inventories affect productivity numbers?

Is it the case that inventory sales count towards GDP, but don't require current workers to manufacture the inventory, so that output per current worker is boosted?

Posted by: richard on October 30, 2003 08:55 AM

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Surely the fact that the largest state in the union now offers Unemployment benefits of almost $1600 a month (a 60% increase in two years) has something to do with the high numbers:

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/10/28/MNGVG2KO751.DTL

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on October 30, 2003 09:02 AM

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Yes. They keep doing this. I've decided it isn't the statisticians. They're doing what they've always done: put out the best number they have and then make it better as they learn more. It's the guy who writes the press release (or his boss, or boss's boss or ...) who's determined the press release should be upbeat and has figured out he make make it sound better by comparing apples to oranges. (And of course the media simply rewrite the press release.)

Posted by: jam on October 30, 2003 09:56 AM

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Yes. They keep doing this. I've decided it isn't the statisticians. They're doing what they've always done: put out the best number they have and then make it better as they learn more. It's the guy who writes the press release (or his boss, or boss's boss or ...) who's determined the press release should be upbeat and has figured out he make make it sound better by comparing apples to oranges. (And of course the media simply rewrite the press release.)

Posted by: jam on October 30, 2003 09:59 AM

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Yes. They keep doing this. I've decided it isn't the statisticians. They're doing what they've always done: put out the best number they have and then make it better as they learn more. It's the guy who writes the press release (or his boss, or boss's boss or ...) who's determined the press release should be upbeat and has figured out he make make it sound better by comparing apples to oranges. (And of course the media simply rewrite the press release.)

Posted by: jam on October 30, 2003 09:59 AM

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Yes. They keep doing this. I've decided it isn't the statisticians. They're doing what they've always done: put out the best number they have and then make it better as they learn more. It's the guy who writes the press release (or his boss, or boss's boss or ...) who's determined the press release should be upbeat and has figured out he make make it sound better by comparing apples to oranges. (And of course the media simply rewrite the press release.)

Posted by: jam on October 30, 2003 10:02 AM

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Sadly, few people understand how significant a figure M.C. Escher was in the field of economic statistics (and Forbes's reporting thereof). His pioneering work, such as "Ascending and Descending," illustrated seemingly impossible phenonema, and has allowed a generation of economists (and their brethren, the economystics, who have adopted a more spiritual or "faith-based" approach) and financial reporters to visualize what would, a scant few decades ago, have been deemed impossible -- weekly figures that magically improve each week, yet which are never seem to actually get better.

However, it's important to note that these stats aren't the first time that Escher's seemingly impossible contraptions have been manifested in the real world. The following picture pretty much illustrates the sisyphean journey of state jobless claim stats over the past few months:


http://www.lipsons.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/escher/ascending.html

Posted by: pilgrim on October 30, 2003 10:08 AM

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Few people appreciate the significance of M.C. Escher to the current state of financial and economic reporting. His surreal works, like "Ascending and Descending," by illustrating the paradoxical and the seemingly impossible, have provided a generation of economics and financial reporters with the tools they need to visualize things like the sisyphean journey taken by the state jobless claims figures over the past few months. This pic pretty much sums it all up:
http://www.lipsons.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/escher/ascending.html

Posted by: pilgrim on October 30, 2003 10:16 AM

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Patrick R. Sullivan:
Surely the fact that the largest state in the union now offers Unemployment benefits of almost $1600 a month (a 60% increase in two years) has something to do with the high numbers

I won't argue the apparent direction of the incentives, but the data don't necessarily bear out a big effect. This week's report indicates that both initial claims and insured unemployment in CA are down from the previous week and year-over-year. And the average weekly benefit was $254 in September '03 against $234 in October '02. Those lucky duckies! BTW, the state leading the nation in insured unemployment rate: that liberal bastion, Alaska.

Posted by: Tom Bozzo on October 30, 2003 11:20 AM

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How much of this growth in Q3 has to do with the $8 billion that the Bush administration gave to US contractors to rebuild Iraq without even a bid (Cheney's pals Halliburton, Betchell, etc).

Just wondering....

Posted by: Bloggo on October 30, 2003 11:32 AM

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On the other hand, think how depressed you'd be if they consistently overstated the preliminary figures. The weekly headlines would then say that initial filings had, once again, shown an increase over the previous week's revised number.

Don't you feel better having happy news?

And more substantively, isn't it a better economic policy to report happy news? Doesn't happy news contribute favorably to consumer confidence, certainly an important contributor to national economic health?

Posted by: joe on October 30, 2003 11:32 AM

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How much of this growth in Q3 has to do with the $8 billion that the Bush administration gave to US contractors to rebuild Iraq without even a bid (Cheney's pals Halliburton, Betchell, etc).

Just wondering....

Posted by: Bloggo on October 30, 2003 11:34 AM

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Patrick R. Sullivan: "Surely the fact that the largest state in the union now offers Unemployment benefits of almost $1600 a month (a 60% increase in two years) has something to do with the high numbers"

Those Lucky Duckies!

We'll be living like kings for those six months, man! That'll get me a palatial ... 0.75 bedroom apartment, and we'll throw a champagne-and-caviar party for all of our unemployed rich friends with the left over $0.00!

How do I get on that gravy train, man! I am SO there!

Posted by: squiddy on October 30, 2003 11:37 AM

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Patrick R. Sullivan: "Surely the fact that the largest state in the union now offers Unemployment benefits of almost $1600 a month (a 60% increase in two years) has something to do with the high numbers"

Those Lucky Duckies!

We'll be living like kings for those six months, man! That'll get me a palatial ... 0.75 bedroom apartment, and we'll throw a champagne-and-caviar party for all of our unemployed rich friends with the left over $0.00!

How do I get on that gravy train, man! I am SO there!

Posted by: squiddy on October 30, 2003 11:46 AM

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>>>

$1,600 aint much-- it's barely above poverty. But it's certainly more than the $1,480 your article cites.

Posted by: muteseh on October 30, 2003 11:46 AM

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>>>

$1,600 isn't much-- it's barely above poverty. But it is certainly more than the $1,480 your article cites.

Posted by: muteseh on October 30, 2003 11:48 AM

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Forbes.com: US jobless claims fall in latest week: The total number of Americans filing initial jobless claims fell by 5,000 last week from a revised 391,000 the previous week, the government said on Thursday, in a sign of a convalescing U.S. job market. First-time claims for state unemployment insurance benefits fell to 386,000 in the week ended Oct. 25...

Posted by: asd on October 30, 2003 12:09 PM

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uh, guys, i'm getting unemployment in california, and i'm getting the highest rate, and i'm getting $1480 per four weeks ($370 a week).

how do i get that $1600? do i have to let ah-nold grope me?

Posted by: skippy on October 30, 2003 12:18 PM

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skippy,

Four weeks does not a month equal. (except for February of course)

Posted by: MikeR on October 30, 2003 12:57 PM

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skippy,

Four weeks does not a month equal. (except for February of course)

Posted by: MikeR on October 30, 2003 12:58 PM

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skippy,

Four weeks does not a month equal. (except for February of course)

Posted by: MikeR on October 30, 2003 12:59 PM

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skippy,

Four weeks does not a month equal. (except for February of course)

Posted by: MikeR on October 30, 2003 01:00 PM

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does anyone have a history of these jobless claims numbers over the last year or so?

Posted by: sco on October 30, 2003 01:14 PM

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muteseh and skippy,

There is only one month with four weeks. Try dividing 52 weeks by 12 months and see what you get.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on October 30, 2003 01:41 PM

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I'm employed, and (minus withholding) I get $1683/month and live quite comfortably on it. I could very easily get by on $1480 a month. Now, if I had kids to support, that would be a different story...

Posted by: ma2000 on October 30, 2003 01:43 PM

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CA unemployment checks are high due to the high cost of living. $1480 is what the higher wage earners get--most Californians don't qualify for nearly that much.

Although I could swear I saw a number of laid-off car wash employees picking out Beamers out on auto row...

Posted by: Susan on October 30, 2003 02:28 PM

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$ 370.00 /wk * 4.333333 wks/month = $ 1603.333/ mo.

Posted by: Buhruce on October 30, 2003 02:46 PM

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But NAIRU is different than frictional unemployment. The theory was proposed after the failure of the "Phillips curve".

Posted by: john c. halasz on October 30, 2003 03:33 PM

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Welcome to the land of double-posts. Welcome...

Posted by: M. on October 30, 2003 04:37 PM

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sco: "does anyone have a history of these jobless claims numbers over the last year or so?"

The series goes back to 1967. See:

http://workforcesecurity.doleta.gov/unemploy/claims_arch.php

Posted by: Tom Bozzo on October 30, 2003 05:28 PM

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Ma2000, do remember that unemployment benifits are taxable, so the $370/week is not what you really get. (Fed income tax only, I think)

From the CA employment web site
http://www.edd.ca.gov/uirep/de1101bt3.pdf
you need to have earned > $9,594 in a quarter of the previous year(?). ($38,376 yearly)
$370 a week is $19,240 yearly. That would barely cover my housing expenses. Not exactly rolling in the dough. If you were making 60K/year, going to 20K/year is a shock. I don't think you will find many people hanging out on unemployment if they have another option.

(Oh, and of course, folks earning less than 38K get less unemployment too.)

Posted by: Mobius Klein on October 31, 2003 12:12 PM

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Fashion exists for women with no taste, etiquette for people with no breeding.

Posted by: Sorel Katherine on December 10, 2003 02:47 PM

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