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Jobless claims for week of Feb. 16
For the week ending Feb. 16, applications of initial claims for unemployment benefits bounced back up to a seasonally adjusted 362,000, the Department of Labor reported Thursday. That was a rise of 20,000 from the previous week's revised claims of 342,000, the first increase in three weeks. It was also the same count as for the comparable week of 2012.

Most analysts prefer the four-week running average because it flattens volatility of the weekly numbers. That average was 360,750, up 8,000 from the previous week's revised number. Claims have been especially volatile since January, in part because it has been difficult to measure seasonal fluctuations in the data.

The department reported that four states, including California, had to estimate their claims because of the Presidents' Day holiday. Such estimates can mean big revisions in the subsequent week.

Companies are maintaining their staffing levels even amid concern that rising gasoline prices and a January tax increase will damp consumer spending. Looming cuts in government spending also threaten to slow growth, a sign that hiring may be limited in coming months.

“Businesses just seem to be sitting tight with regard to layoffs, which is reason for optimism,” Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania, said before the report. “If we get through these hurdles over the next couple months the job market should begin to improve more noticeably,” said Sweet, who was the best forecaster of jobless claims over the past two years ended last week, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

In all programs, federal and state, the total number of people claiming benefits for the week ending Feb. 2 was 5,610,327, down 307,848 from the previous week. For the comparable week of 2012, there were 7,486,681 persons claiming benefits in all programs. Although the lower year-to-year numbers reflect the fact many Americans found jobs, some of the reduction is due to people exhausting their benefits. Currently, fewer than 40 percent of unemployed Americans are receiving jobless benefits, way down over the more than 70 percent who were during the height of the Great Recession.

In a separate report, the department said Thursday that Americans' real average weekly earnings are up 1.3 percent since October 2012. But in the past 12 months consumer prices were up 1.6 percent. Combined, those figures show the average American is losing financial ground even though the inflation rate is low.

Meanwhile, in minutes by the Federal Open Market Committee of its Jan. 29 meeting released Wednesday, there are indications the Federal Reserve Board could reduce its purchase of financial assets in a program designed to speed up hiring in the sluggish labor market. The Fed has previously said it would maintain such purchases until the official unemployment has fallen to 6.5 percent. Last month, it rose slightly to 7.9 percent.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 07:35 AM PST.

Also republished by Invisible People and In Support of Labor and Unions.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (14+ / 0-)

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 07:35:11 AM PST

  •  Sequestration is another word for rationing. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Meteor Blades, Spron

    We already know that rationing prompts hoarding, so the word isn't used, but that the private sector is hoarding is all the evidence we need.
    We don't usually think of money being rationed. But then, we also don't think of our currency as a man-made artifact. When we do, it becomes obvious that since we don't even use paper and ink to produce all of it any more, there's no reason for money to be scarce unless the producers want it that way.
    What we also don't think about is that, while the Bureau of Engraving and Printing actually produces and delivers the dollars, it's up to the Congress to supervise their distribution.
    Our federal government spends for the goods and services we need. Then it collects taxes to insure the currency cycles through the economy. In other words, taxes are part of the recycling process. (We should perhaps not be surprised that people who don't believe in recycling don't want the dollars to be recycled, either).

    Why would the Congress want to ration money? Perhaps it's just habit. After all, when they were doling out our natural resources to cronies, those eventually ran out. So, they had to be apportioned carefully. Perhaps that the supply of money is infinite is not understood or has them spooked. Perhaps they believe the scam that they have to borrow to spend. Perhaps they just like the feeling of having people's livelihoods depend on their mood.  If so, then the Capitol Hill Gang are deprivators of the worst kind.
    Calling them unjust stewards is mild.

    Luke 16:1-13

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 08:11:22 AM PST

    •  Sequestration is another word for ROBBERY (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Nattiq, hannah

      A hijacking and a robbery, essentially. Also known as a carjacking.

      What is the proper response to a carjacking?

      Filling up the car and handing them the keys?

      or Fighting?

      A robbery is an assault and ANY assault upon you is a licence to defend yourself.

      Or roll over like a fish - it's your life.

      I think "fighting' is the better response to a carjacking.

      Others here will definitely fill up the car and hand over the keys cheerfully.

      I think that being a victim is undesirable and effort can be taken to make some attempt to avoid it or at least not make it so easy. I don't have a philospohy that cheers losing.

      We're being robbed.

      And fucked.

      And being told to take it.

      Good Americans just lay there.

      The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.

      by xxdr zombiexx on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 08:33:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  That's a wonderful way to put it (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hannah

      I hadn't considered that corporate entities were "hoarding" cash. To rational actors, it would seem to make little sense. Then again, our corporations-who-are-people and the people-people who enrich themselves through them are hardly "rational." Greedy, duplicitous, and self-aggrandizing, yes. But rational...I don't think so.

  •  This (3+ / 0-)
    Currently, fewer than 40 percent of unemployed Americans are receiving jobless benefits, way down over the more than 70 percent who were during the height of the Great Recession.
    is so very sad.  

    Does that count the long-term unemployed and people who have given up looking or who are scraping by with freelance work, etc. ?

    Also, do you know (off the top of your head, please don't go out of your way) what the best ball park numbers are for the total number of unemployed and underemployed in the U.S.?  I hear numbers like 25 million.  I wonder if that really describes the situation accurately.


    "Justice is a commodity"

    by joanneleon on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 08:25:22 AM PST

    •  That is one HUGE success of Repiublican (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      joanneleon, Meteor Blades

      efforts to screw everybody worth less than $5 million.

      The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.

      by xxdr zombiexx on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 08:34:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Long-term unemployed people who have... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      vigilant meerkat, joanneleon

      ...exhausted their benefits (both state and federal) are out of luck. We used to say "99ers" for those who got the most weeks of benefits. But the way it works now is a max of 73 weeks except in states that have cut back their own maximum of 26 weeks to something less than that: in Georgia, that could be as few as 18 weeks. And because federal extensions are figured on a percentage basis of what the state provides, that means the extra weeks possible from the Feds are also cut to something less than 47. (Plus, of course, some people are cutting back the amount of the weekly benefits, not just the number of weeks you get them if you are eligible.)

      Free-lancers are not covered. Seasonal workers aren't covered. Contract workers aren't usually covered.

      By my count, the number of un- and underemployed is 27 million, although you will rarely hear that:

      • the 12.3 million (U3 in the Bureau of Labor Statistics's jargon) who are officially out of work.

      • the 8 million who are part time for economic reasons (meaning they want to work full-time but can't find full-time hours, or were full-time and are still in the same job but now getting furlough days or shorter hours. (This doesn't include people who WANT to work part time.) This is measured in U6 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is a combo of U3 and the "underemployed" count.

      • and the 6.9 million who say they want a job and would take one but haven't looked in the past 12 months because they have given up. (This last number is fuzzy, but it's included in the Current Population Survey.)

      Total: 27.2 million

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 10:33:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks (0+ / 0-)

        for taking the time to lay that out.  It is hard to discern how  many people really are out of work and I appreciate you passing on what you think the best analysis is.  

        The people who have dropped off -- I'm sure it is, as you say, hard to measure that.  I think it's probably hard to measure the number of people who are underemployed because there are a hell of a lot of people out there doing freelance work or starting their own consulting operation because they can't get decent full time work. Some would prefer to keep that part of the story confidential.  It's a lot better than having a big years long gap on your resume, it helps with the catch-22 of not being able to get hired for a new job unless you are currently employed (profoundly stupid stigma these days) and it brings in some work when you can get it.  I know a lot of people in this situation -- people in the science and tech fields.  That's why I cringe when I hear politicians talking about how there are not enough skilled American workers for the jobs available and therefore more visas are needed.  The Philadelphia and NY metro areas have a lot of unemployed science and tech workers.  


        "Justice is a commodity"

        by joanneleon on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 03:50:43 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  gas prices surging: Economy MUST be doing better (0+ / 0-)

    whenever things are better for the economy, it seems to send a message to the gas gougers  and speculators to crank up the prices.

    Are we going to get powerfucked again with a few months of $5+ gal gas so the economy can lose whatever gains it had made?

    Americans are little more than livestock to be milked and fleeced.

    That's how it looks and feels and seems.

    Assure me its not that bad.

    The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.

    by xxdr zombiexx on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 08:28:40 AM PST

    •  Gas prices up at the moment may have to do... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      vigilant meerkat

      ...with the oil embargo on Iran, the war in Syria (which makes oil traders nervous) and what appears to be good economic news from China again (meaning a bigger demand).

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 10:36:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wherein "smoothing" morphs into flatlining... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    vigilant meerkat

    ...and then into "the new normal"...beginning -- possibly -- to see the development of a truly sad trend...not just in weekly unemployment claims, but in overall unemployment, existing housing purchase contracts/housing starts, and income inequality.

    Many other economists and economic pundits (Robert Oak comes to mind, over at the Economic Populist blog) starting to write/talk about this, as well.

    We'll see...but, BOTH Stiglitz and Krugman wrote about this and warned us, roughly 13-14 months ago. as it related to overall unemployment figures. I've read about this on the housing-oriented blogs, too. And, Saez' and Piketty's most recent inequality trend/analysis would tend to support the development of this over-arching concept, as well.

    Stay tuned...

    (This is not good!)

    "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

    by bobswern on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 09:57:18 AM PST

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