Jobless Claims Fall To Lowest Levels Since 1969

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Weekly unemployment claims for the week ending Dec. 4, decreased 43,000 to 184,000. The Department of Labor states that this is the lowest level for initial claims since Sept. 6, 1969. Fifty-two years ago, claims were reported to be 182,000.

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The four-week moving average, a better overall measure of volatility, came in with a decrease of 21, 250 to 218,750. This figure represents a pandemic low. On March 7, 2020, right before the pandemic took its full toll on the labor market, it was 215,250.

Another pandemic low came in the form of insured unemployment. The 4-week moving average was 2,027,500 representing a decrease of 54,250 from the previous week’s average. This is the lowest level for this average since March 14, 2020, when it was 1,730,750, the Department of Labor stated in a release.

This is coupled with news that the seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate steadying near 1.5% for the week ending Nov. 27, representing a slight uptick of .1 percentage point from the previous week’s unrevised rate.

So what can cause jobless claims to drop but unemployment claims to remain relatively unchanged and even trend upwards? Attrition.

Basically, there are roughly 4 million fewer jobs now than there were before the pandemic. In addition, quits and retirement rates have reached historic levels.

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Theories have suggested that stimulus checks and other generous federal unemployment benefits allowed many workers to quit positions they otherwise would not have had there not been supplemental unemployment aid available.

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That aid is now gone, and for several weeks now, unemployment claims have been trending down. The steep dropoff in unemployment claims could also support theories that companies have been doing a better job at keeping their workers, as the level of unemployment is still relatively high. A high level of unemployment coupled with decreases in jobless claims typically points to improved retainment — welcome news in a tumultuous year for labor markets.

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