First-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits, for the week ended August 26, increased by 1,000 to 236,000. The previous week’s jobless claims were revised up by 1,000, to 235,000 from 234,000, as originally reported.
Economists were actually expecting claims to come in at 238,000, so Thursday’s data were lower than expected. The four-week moving average dropped to 236,750, a decrease of 1,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 238,000. The four-week average is considered to be more reliable because it smooths out sharp fluctuations in the more volatile weekly figures.
It is widely expected that jobless claims will soar over the next few weeks as workers who have lost their jobs as a result of Hurricane Harvey file for unemployment benefits. While the exact number of jobless claims being filed is up in the air, they soared by 96,000 after Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. Upcoming jobless claims could be much, much higher than that, though; the population of the New Orleans metro area is only one-fifth the size of Houston, Texas.
Thursday’s number is also the lowest level since May.
Since the end of May, when claims hit 255,000, jobless claims have average 241,077. This compares with the first quarter 2017 average of 247,083 and 238,875 for the month of April and first three weeks of May. For the most part, the jobless data have been drifting sideways.
According to the report, continuing claims (already collecting unemployment checks), for the week ended August 19, was 1.942 million, a decrease of 12,000 from the previous week’s unrevised level of 1.954 million. The four-week moving average was 1.951 million, a slight 6,250 decrease from the previous week’s unrevised average of 1,957,750.
The U.S. economy has added nearly 17 million jobs since 2010, marking eight years of expansion. That said, most of the jobs created since the Great Recession have been low-paying, part-time jobs that offer little to no stability or wage growth. The economic recovery might be in its eighth year, but, despite the longevity, it’s been the slowest economic recovery since World War II.
During Obama’s presidency, the U.S. economy grew, on average, just two percent. Obama is the only president to never have had a year of three-percent gross domestic product growth.
In the 10 previous expansions, real GDP grew an average of 4.3%. Under George W. Bush, average GDP growth was 2.7% and under Bill Clinton, average annual GDP growth during the recovery was 3.5%.
“Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims,” U.S. Department of Labor, August 31, 2017.