Thursday, April 03, 2008

Weekly Unemployment Claims Indicate Probable Recession

by Calculated Risk on 4/03/2008 10:21:00 AM

The 4-week moving average of weekly unemployment insurance claims reached 374,500 this week.

From the Department of Labor:

In the week ending March 29, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 407,000, an increase of 38,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 369,000. The 4-week moving average was 374,500, an increase of 15,750 from the previous week's revised average of 358,750.
Weekly Unemployment ClaimsClick on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the weekly claims and the four week moving average of weekly unemployment claims since 1989. The four week moving average has been trending upwards for the last few months, and the level is now solidly above the possible recession level (approximately 350K).

Labor related gauges are at best coincident indicators, and this indicator suggests the economy is in recession. Notice that following the previous two recessions, weekly unemployment claims stayed elevated for a couple of years after the official recession ended - suggesting the weakness in the labor market lingered. The same will probably be true for the current recession (probable).

Note: There is nothing magical about the 350K level. We don't need to adjust for population growth because this indicator is just suggestive and not precise.