A rash of estimates in the January 13 week clouds an unusually steep decline in initial jobless claims which fell 41,000 to 220,000 for the lowest showing in 45 years. But six states and two territories had to be estimated including California, where claims are up 12,000, and once again Puerto Rico where claims rose more than 2,000 to 4,267 in a reminder that Hurricane Maria's impact back in September is still disrupting the territory's labor department.
The January 13 week is also the sample week for the monthly employment report and the plunge, on its face, would point to a sizable increase in payroll growth and a further drop in the unemployment rate. Yet the unusual number of estimates will likely have forecasters putting this report to the side.
The 4-week average of course is less wild, down 6,250 to 244,500 which, in an offset to the week's headline plunge, is up 15,000 from the sample week of the December employment report. This is a negative indication for the coming report. Continuing claims are mixed, up a sizable 76,000 to 1.952 million in lagging data for the January 6 week but steady at 1.920 million for the 4-week average.
The estimates aside, the drop in the latest claims does speak to strength in the labor market and is underscored once again by how low the unemployment rate is for insured workers, holding steady in the week at 1.4 percent.
Initial claims are expected to come in at 250,000 in the January 13 week compared to 261,000 in the January 6 week which was unusually high and which hinted at a possible rise in layoffs. The January 13 week is also the sample week for the January employment report which, together with the weakness in the January 6 week, will focus strong attention on this report.