Initial claims for unemployment benefits have spiked to historic levels over the past few weeks. For the week ending April 4, over 6.6 million claims were made. As of this morning, for the week ending April 11, this number is 5.2 million claims.
The initial claims series is an important economic indicator for several reasons.
First, it’s weekly. Many other indicators are updated much less frequently: For example, nonfarm payroll data are monthly, and gross domestic product data are quarterly.
Second, there’s a short collection lag. One week’s data become public information only five days after that week is complete. The number for April 4 was made available April 9, and the number for April 11 was made available today (April 16).
Third, because it’s based on government administrative data, it’s more reliable than statistics based on surveys.
Fourth and finally, it’s available not only at a national level but also at a state level.
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