Initial Claims for Unemployment Fall, But So Do Orders for Durable Goods

Last Updated Nov 24, 2010 12:31 PM EST

I have highlighted the upward movements in the initial claims for unemployment series here on many occasions, so I should also note when it moves downward:
In the week ending Nov. 20, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 407,000, a decrease of 34,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 441,000. The 4-week moving average was 436,000, a decrease of 7,500 from the previous week's revised average of 443,500.
As the following graph shows, after beginning to fall from the peak of just under 650,000, initial claims appeared to be stuck at around 450,000, which is above the 400,000 or so level where jobs are being created rather than lost. However, initial claims finally seem to be falling and are near the critical 400,000 threshold (400,000 is a very rough estimate of the switch point from job loss to job creation; in the graph, the blue line shows actual claims, the red line is the 4 week moving average):

However, before we get too overconfident, we should also note the other news today:

New orders for manufactured durable goods in October decreased $6.8 billion or 3.3 percent to $196.0 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau announced today. This decrease, down two of the last three months, followed a 5.0 percent September increase. Excluding transportation, new orders decreased 2.7 percent. Excluding defense, new orders decreased 2.1 percent.
That's the largest drop since March of 2009. Thus, while the drop in unemployment claims is good news, overall the news is mixed and it's not yet clear -- at all -- that our troubles are over.