New filings for jobless benefits rose by 27,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis last week—the biggest weekly increase in nearly two months. New claims, as a result, moved above the 400,000 mark for the first time in five weeks. It all adds up to a disappointment, but it’s too soon to wave the white flag. This is a volatile series and so no one should read too much into any one number. Meanwhile, the four-week moving average is still well below 400k, and so it’s not obvious that the recent downtrend has been broken.
Still, there’s no getting around the fact that economists were expecting a much lower figure. As Bloomberg reports, “Economists projected claims would be little changed at 380,000, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey. The increase in claims traditionally seen at the end of a quarter was larger than usual this year, a Labor Department spokesman said as the figures were released to the press.”
Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Pierpoint Securities, advises that “the Labor Department is attributing the rise [in jobless claims] to the turn in the calendar quarter but that is something that it should have accounted for. You just have a wait-and-see whether the weekly claims figure stays above 400,000. If you see that, then it would be worrisome,” he notes via Reuters.