What the numbers behind unemployment really mean

David Gura Mar 13, 2014
Share Now on:

What the numbers behind unemployment really mean

David Gura Mar 13, 2014

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 315,000 Americans filed new claims for state unemployment benefits last week. It’s the lowest weekly jobs number in three months, but it’s also not the entire story.

Economists tend to more closely monitor and ascribe more value to employment numbers in monthly summaries from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The most recent report shows the U.S. economy added 175,000 in February, which pushed the unemployment rate to 6.7 percent.

Jobs data is subject to revisions, and it is probable that figures for the week that ended on March 8 will change in subsequent reports. It is especially likely because there has been so much bad weather across the U.S.

Cooper Howes, an economist at Barclays Capital, says “claims data have been volatile dating back to last fall.” In a note to investors, Howes stated:

“Factors such as computer system upgrades, seasonal adjustments related to moving holidays, and severe weather all potentially complicated the interpretation of the previously steady downward trend.”

Democrats, led by President Obama, continue to call for an extension of long-term unemployment benefits, which expired on Dec. 28, 2013. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3.8 million Americans have been out of work for 27 weeks or more.

Many Republicans have signaled they are open to reinstating those benefits, but they continue to call for the costs to be offset by cuts elsewhere. As of yet, the two parties have failed to agree on a way forward.

If you’re a member of your local public radio station, we thank you — because your support helps those stations keep programs like Marketplace on the air.  But for Marketplace to continue to grow, we need additional investment from those who care most about what we do: superfans like you.

Your donation — as little as $5 — helps us create more content that matters to you and your community, and to reach more people where they are – whether that’s radio, podcasts or online.

When you contribute directly to Marketplace, you become a partner in that mission: someone who understands that when we all get smarter, everybody wins.

We’re here for you.

As COVID-19 reshapes our economy, our newsletter will help you unpack the news from the day.