November 06, 2003

Finally Some Sign That the Job Market Is Not Getting Worse!

For the first time in a long time, a sign that the job market is not getting worse:

Jobless claims plunge to lowest since Jan. 2001 - Nov. 6, 2003: ...The Labor Department said 348,000 people filed new claims for unemployment benefits in the week ended Nov. 1, compared with a revised reading of 391,000 in the prior week. It was the lowest number of weekly jobless claims since 339,000 in the week of Jan. 20, 2001. Economists, on average, expected 380,000 new claims, according to Briefing.com. A spokesman for the Labor Department told Reuters there was no apparent explanation for the enormous drop in claims, but suggested at least some of that drop should be discounted. "Every week we encourage (people to look at) the four-week average. This is certainly one of those weeks," the spokesman said.

The four-week moving average of new claims, which irons out the volatility of the weekly data, fell to 380,000 in the week ended Nov. 1 from a revised 390,000 in the prior week...

This week's unemployment claims number--if sustained--is roughly consistent with a stable unemployment rate.

Posted by DeLong at November 6, 2003 07:15 AM | TrackBack

Comments

I think this level of unemployment claims (350,000) would be consistent with a strong job market. If I recall correctly this was the level of claims during most of the 1990s expansion with the exception of the very latter stages. I would love to get back to the job market of late 1999/early 2000, but I think it may be a long, long time till we see that again.

I suspect it is a blip though. I don't see that level of strength in the job market, not yet anyways. There have been various signs of improvement (anecdotal and statistical) that continue to confirm each other, but none yet that have shown this level of robustness. I would like to believe it, but I don't yet.

Posted by: Joe Blog on November 6, 2003 07:55 AM

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I'm serious, guys: the job market in high-tech Internet stuff is exploding with activity. It's a very dramatic change that only began about 40 days ago. I know as a scientist you can't really put a lot of weight on anecdotal comments without any specifics posted by a stranger in your blog, but, um, but I'm serious!

Posted by: Zooko on November 6, 2003 08:02 AM

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A comprehensive laundry list. Let's see:


1) Corporate scandals - done by CEO's (Republican), with support from GOP policies.
In at least on case very closely connected to Bush - whatever did happen to Kenny Boy? I guess
that Ashcroft was too busy busting New Orleans hookers and CA medical marijuana clubs to take him down.

2) Terrorist attack - after the administration took Clinton's briefings and sh*tcanned them. Speaking of which - how's the 9/11 investigation going? Where's OBL? Where's the anthrax killer?
And what did Bush do with the international suport afterwards? Pissed it away.

3) Attacking Afghanistan - initial attack successful, followed by letting a bunch of Taliban/Al Qaida fighters escape into Pakistan. However, they'll soon find a new home in:

4) IRAQ! A war waged for no good reason whatsoever. The initial attack was successful, but then again, Napoleon did take Moscow. We're now bogged down in a guerrilla war, due to the administration's incompetancy. And pulling out would be worse than Afghanistan, presumably.

5) Airlines and travel industry - this was due to 9/11. And the administration reacted by bailing out the airlines, but making sure that the airlines could lay off people at will. Typical Bush BS.

In short, most of what happened is either due to GOP policies, or the administration's bungling.

Posted by: Barry on November 6, 2003 08:55 AM

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It is Brad's forum and it is up to him to post or discuss whatever he wants. That said I have seen a trend away from "cool and analytical" to "Bush Sucks". Now there is a good case to be made that "Bush Sucks", but in the past I have read some really interesting stuff from Brad like his "View of the Economy from 2025" (or something like that) while recently there are a lot of "Why Oh Why" type posts that fall more or less in the partisan screed category.

Posted by: Joe Blog on November 6, 2003 09:04 AM

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Joe Blog wrote, "I think this level of unemployment claims (350,000) would be consistent with a strong job market. If I recall correctly this was the level of claims during most of the 1990s expansion with the exception of the very latter stages."

My impression is that the number has changed because of changes in population growth, but I could be wrong.

Posted by: Stephen J Fromm on November 6, 2003 09:09 AM

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>> there are a lot of "Why Oh Why" type posts that fall more or less in the partisan screed category<<

May I ask which of the recent "Why Oh Why" posts you think is the *most* unfair to Bush and company?

Posted by: Brad DeLong on November 6, 2003 09:14 AM

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I'll chime in: I'm no Bush enthusiast, but I agree that Brad's "down with Bush" posts are quite emotional and polarized. I'm much more likely to stop and read closely if I see that he is posting about something other than "How stupid and evil the Bush administration is, part MCMCXLII"
Therefore, since Brad's primary reason for maintaining this web log is to please me, I expect a quick cessation of Bush criticisms and a whole lot more economics, child education, higher education, and jokes. Thank you very much.

Posted by: Zooko on November 6, 2003 09:16 AM

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JAG,

Critics of the administration employ three kinds of argument, in different proportion according to the need of the moment:

1) Things are awful.
2) Things are going to be awful
3) Things would be much better now if we had adopted a differnt set of policies (opportunity cost)

If the economic situation becomes less obviously bad (GDP grows, job market improves, deficit starts moderating), I expect 2) and 3) to become prevalent.

Of course, if things turn sour, the apologists will, mutatis mutandis, claim that things will get better, they are still better than they would have been etc.

Posted by: maciej on November 6, 2003 09:21 AM

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JAG wrote, "After a stock market bubble burst in 2000 (Bush's fault?), corporate debacles like Enron, MCI and Tyco (Bush's fault?), an unprecedented terrorist act followed by anthrax and sniper hysteria,...attacking Afghanistan then Iraq (successfully)..."

BDL never said the bubble was Bush's fault. Rather, what *is* Bush's fault is a tax policy designed to give minimal bang for the buck in terms of providing a fiscal stimulus to push us out of the recession. (Because (a) the large part of the tax cut plan directed at the wealthy would have much less stimulative effect than that directed at the non-wealthy, (b) the plan is largely backloaded, with a good chunk of the cuts planned for the future, most likely after the recession is over and expansionary fiscal policy not needed or even harmful.)

Corporate debacles: no, not Bush's fault, but you're missing the forest for the trees. A big part of the problem was legislation that weakened shareholder rights, which was part of the Contract with America. Admittedly there was some Democratic support for this (if I recall correctly, Lieberman supported it, which made it hard for the Democrats to drum up anything over Enron), but it was overall a Republican piece of legislation.

The attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq have been successful only in the most narrow sense. Iraq has not been secured, and will cost much more than was proclaimed at the outset. (Not to mention that Iraq wasn't much of a threat anyway, so it's a problem of the Administration's own making.) In Afghanistan, the Administration chose a policy of using proxy troops, which is partly to blame for bin Laden getting away at Tora Bora. (Not to mention that Afghanistan isn't secure either; that the Administration at one point made the snafu of not even budgetting any money for it---their henchmen in Congress had to do that for them; etc.)

Posted by: Stephen J Fromm on November 6, 2003 09:22 AM

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JAG,

Critics of the administration employ three kinds of argument, in different proportion according to the need of the moment:

1) Things are awful.
2) Things are going to be awful
3) Things would be much better now if we had adopted a differnt set of policies (opportunity cost)

If the economic situation becomes less obviously bad (GDP grows, job market improves, deficit starts moderating), I expect 2) and 3) to become prevalent.

Of course, if things turn sour, the apologists will, mutatis mutandis, claim that things will get better, they are still better than they would have been etc.

Posted by: maciej on November 6, 2003 09:23 AM

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maciej wrote, "Of course, if things turn sour, the apologists will, mutatis mutandis, claim that things will get better, they are still better than they would have been etc."

That's a very strange argument. First, clearly people should be able to criticize the government's tax and spending policy. Secondly, such policy is obviously not completely determining in how the economy will behave.

It appears that you claim that Bush's policies are either good or benign, and that you're making a meta-claim that your claim is not falsifiable.

Posted by: Stephen J Fromm on November 6, 2003 09:28 AM

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