Thursday, October 31, 2013

California glitches still having major impact on initial jobless claims

. - by New Deal democrat

UPDATE: California says this week's number does not include any backlog. The following post describes its large continued impact on last week's number.

Computer issues in California continued to bedevil the weekly initial jobless claims reports through last week's report. In early September, computer issues prevented the Sunshine State from entering all of its initial claims. That ended after a few weeks, but then California had to catch up in its data entry, thus distorting data to the upside. There is a one week delay in reporting state by state data, so this post does not discuss this morning's report.

But get a load of this: last week unadjusted initial jobless claims fell by 49,000 in the other 49 states, but rose by 15,000 in California!

Now , to the nerdy numbers. As I did last year with regard to Superstorm Sandy, we can arrive at a good estimate the "real" initial jobless claims have been, by comparing the unadjusted average for the other 49 states this year vs. last year in the same week, and projecting this year's "real" number by assuming that the percentage of claims in the other 49 states are the same percentage of the total this year as they were last year.For the other 49 states, claims were 83.2% of what they were last year. Since last year, seasonally adjusted, there were 372,000 claims, if California behaved similarly the 50 state number this year last week would have been 309,000.

Using this method, the below list shows the seasonally adjusted weekly jobless claims number on the left, and the right is the average adjusting for the likely impact of California's computer issues:

Sep 07  294,000  318,000
Sep 14  311,000  327,000
Sep 21  307,000  313,000
Sep 28  308,000  314,000
Oct 05  373,000  329,000
Oct 12  362,000  335,000
Oct 19 350,000 309,000
Oct 26. 340,000. -------

[Note: Since the raw state data is published with a one week lag, we do not know yet what this week's number will be.]

Here's what happens to the 4 week moving average:

Sep 28 305,000 318,000
Oct 5 324,750 320,500
Oct 12 337,500 323,500
Oct 19 348,250 321,750

October 5 and 12 were the two weeks during which federal workers affected by the government shutdown applied for unemployment insurance. In September, California's problems probably resulted in an underount of -53,000 claims by the above calculations. I had hoped that one week ago was the last week affected by California distortions, since cLose to 50,000 of those claims we're made up in the prior two weeks. That obviously wasn't the case, but hopefully this week was the end.