Thursday, February 25, 2010
The Labor Department reported that weekly jobless claims rose from 474,000 to 496,000 for the week ending February 20th, the highest total since last November.
The four-week moving average, used to smooth week-to-week volatility, also rose to a three-month high, up from 467,750 to 473,500 as shown below where recessions are indicated in gray, the mid-2009 end date of the last recession estimated based on consensus forecasts.
Part of the reason for the increase last week was the weather-related delay in processing new unemployment insurance claims in the mid-Atlantic and New England states, however, this does not substantively affect the moving average which is now headed upward again.
How long this recent trend lasts is anyone's guess, but it is worth noting that the current level of jobless claims was exceeded on only three occasions during the prior recession in 2001, immediately after the September 11th attacks.