Numbers released on Thursday by the Department of Labor indicated that seasonally adjusted first-time unemployment claims for the week ending Dec. 25 fell 34,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 422,000. The four-week moving average was 414,000, a decrease of 12,500 from the previous week’s revised average of 426,500. In 2009 at this time there were 474,000 Americans filing first-time unemployment claims (the four-week moving average, seasonally adjusted).
Unadjusted numbers reflected an increase of 24,879 from the previous week to 521,834. However, new claims are lower than they have been for more than two years—early July 2008—and the four-week moving average likewise is down to its lowest since the week ending July 26, 2008.
November’s job creation only came in at 39,000 for non-farm payrolls, but December numbers are expected to pick up considerably. Those data—job creation and unemployment rate—will not be available, however, till Jan. 7. In addition, there will be a change in reporting unemployment duration beginning in January 2011. The Current Population Survey presently allows recording of unemployment duration only up to two years. Beginning with data collection for January 2011, respondents will be able to report duration of unemployment for up to five years. This change will affect Table A-12 in the Department of Labor reports, changing the data series for average (mean) duration of unemployment. More information about this change is available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Continuing unemployment claims, those who are still receiving benefits after the initial week, rose by 57,000 to 4.13 million for the week ending Dec. 18.
The unemployment rate, according to the Department of Labor, hit 9.8% in November—15.1 million people. For each of the previous three months, it was 9.6%. In November of 2009, it was 10.0%, where it stayed through the month of December as well.
The number of long-term unemployed, those who have been jobless for 27 weeks or more, was basically the same, at 6.3 million, in November. And the number of discouraged workers, those who have given up looking for work because they believe there is nothing available for them, in November hit 1.3 million. That’s up 421,000 from November 2009.
For those still out of work and eligible for extended benefits, the extension of long-term unemployment benefits contained in the new tax law signed by President Obama on Dec. 17 will come as welcome relief.