Volatility in jobless claims data is assured in the coming weeks as the effects of Hurricane Harvey and Irma play out at unemployment offices in Texas and Florida as well as surrounding states. Initial claims fell back 14,000 to a 284,000 level that is on the low end of Econoday's consensus range. After rising more than 50,000 in the prior week, initial claims in Texas declined nearly 12,000. Claims in Florida had to be estimated while claims in Puerto Rico actually dipped as offices were closed due to Irma.
Continuing claims are steady but may begin to rise as some displaced workers collect extended benefits. In lagging data for the September 2 week, continuing claims fell 7,000 to 1.944 million with the unemployment rate holding at 1.4 percent.
It's too soon to say what the employment effects will be from Irma but the worst effects of Harvey, based on the decline in Texas, may have already passed. More important than jobless claims is monthly payroll growth in the employment report, and here again the easing number of claims in Texas is a positive omen.
Forecasters missed badly in the September 2 week, calling for little initial effect from Hurricane Harvey which in fact proved severe. Initial claims in the week surged 62,000 to 298,000 and not much more is expected in the September 9 week with the consensus at 302,000. Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma will be enormous wildcards for initial claims data during the next several weeks.