Of all the various measures of the economy we have at our disposal, one of the most consistent and real-time is the Unemployment Initial Claims, which comes out weekly. It’s nothing more than a measure of how many people filed for unemployment insurance in the previous week, so it’s a solid number that doesn’t come from a survey or other statistical measure.
It still has its problems, however. It’s noisy, bouncing up and down a bit each week – a problem taken care of by looking at a 4-week moving average. Initial Claims numbers also don’t tell us a thing about hiring, but rather how many lost their jobs.
It hasn’t been useful for at least two years as attention turned away from job loss to job creation that would absorb the surplus workers looking for employment. But it’s worth checking in with this handy number one more time because it has hit an important milestone – and may be as low as it will ever go.