While the mainstream media concentrates on the weekly initial jobless claims data release, they rarely seem to provide any coverage or analysis of the rate of continued claims, also released on a weekly basis. This statistical measure includes workers that qualify for unemployment benefits under unemployment insurance and excludes those that are not eligible for benefits and those that have exhausted their unemployment benefits. As such, it is not equivalent to the total number of unemployed persons.
From FRED, here is a graph showing the number of continued unemployment claims back to January 1965, giving us a sense of what post-recession recovery periods look like:
Here is the same data for the period from January 2007 to the present showing the that the rate of continued claims was steady at a range of between 2.3 million and 2.6 million just prior to the Great Recession:
The current rate of 3 million, while down 55 percent from the May 2009 peak of 6.619 million, is still 22 percent above the pre-Great Recession midpoint level of 2.45 million. As well, since February 2013, the rate has been firmly stuck in a range between 2.9 and 3.1 million and is showing no real sign of improving anytime soon.
Let's look at two more graphs from FRED. The first shows the number of Americans unemployed for 27 weeks or longer:
Things have not looked more grim for the long-term unemployed. Just prior to the Great Recession, the number of long-term unemployed Americans hovered between 1.1 and 1.3 million. Four years into the recovery, the number of long-term unemployed Americans was still elevated at 4.2 million in July 2013, nearly 350 percent above the level just prior to the Great Recession.
The second graph shows the number of non-farm job openings back to 2001:
The current number of job openings at 3.936 million is still well below the pre-Great Recession level of 4.5 to 4.7 million experienced in 2006 and 2007.
For unemployed Americans, unfortunately, there is little reason to be upbeat. Unless the economy improves markedly, my suspicion is that we will not see a drop in the number of continued unemployment claims…at least until the unemployed exhaust their benefits.
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