Six-month high for jobless claims? That’s something we haven’t been able to say in well over a year since hurricanes battered the US late last summer. Today’s report on jobless claims showed an increase to 234K from last week’s level of 224K and expectations for 220K. The last time claims were this high was back in mid-May, and the last time they were higher was in late March! For years now, any time the strength and resiliency of the US economy has come into question, the downward trend of jobless claims has acted as a security blanket. After today’s report, though, the yarn may be starting to fray a little. Even at 234K, claims are still low by historical standards, but they are just higher than what we have become accustomed to in recent months.
This week’s reading of 234K ended the streak of weeks where claims were at or below 225K at 20, which was just two shy of the 22-week record in 1969. While that streak has ended, the 60-week streak of readings at or below 250K remains intact, as does the record streak of 195 straight weeks where claims have been at or below 300K. When and if these streaks start to fall, it will be a time of much greater concern.
The four-week moving average also saw a pretty sizable increase this week, rising from 218.5K up to 223.25K. That 4.75K increase is the largest since mid-May, which was also the last time weekly claims were this high. It has now been eleven weeks since this indicator made its last cycle low of 206K, and the last time we were this far off a low was in September 2017.
With this week’s report covering the week of Thanksgiving and the prior week being Veterans Day, there is some talk that the numbers this week may have been skewed a bit. Only time will tell on that front, but we would note that on a non-seasonally adjusted (NSA) basis, claims were not as bad. At 217.8K, this week’s NSA reading was nearly 140K below the average for the current week of the year dating back to 2000, and the last time they were this low in this specific week was in 1968.