Category Archives: scariest charts

26/9/20: America’s Scariest Charts: Continued Unemployment Claims


Updating my charts for the continued unemployment claims:

The latest data is covering the period through September 12, 2020.

  • On a non-seasonally-adjusted basis, there were 13,355,586 Americans with continued unemployment claims in the week of September 12, 2020, an increase of 212,869 on the week prior, but 9,438,559 down on the COVID19 peak reached in the week of May 9, 2020. At the lowest point in pre-COVID expansion period, weekly continued claims stood at 1,350,834. 
  • In the last 4 weeks through September 12, 2020, average decline in continued unemployment claims was 461,476. At this rate of decline, it will take the U.S. economy 26-27 weeks to recover its pre-COVID19 lows in terms of continued unemployment.
  • Current level of continued unemployment claims implies 9.14% unemployment rate.
Per charts above - covering seasonally-adjusted data that has been subject significant methodological revisions starting with September 2020:
  • It would take thee U.S. economy 33 weeks from September 12, 2020 to complete full recovery to pre-COVID19 levels of continued unemployment claims
  • In seasonally-adjusted terms, unlike in terms of raw data discussed above, September 12, 2020 continued unemployment claims stood at 12,580,000 down 167,000 on week prior. 
I will be covering new or initial unemployment claims in the net post, so stay tuned. 

23/8/20: America’s Scariest Charts: Continued Unemployment Claims


Having updated non-farm employment data (, let's take a look at continued unemployment claims, as reported through the first week of August.

A chart to start with:

Continued unemployment claims are still falling.
  • The weekly rate of declines is improving. Most current week on week decline is 636,000, an improvement on prior week/week decline of 610,000. $ weeks average weekly rate of decline is 326,750. 
  • Latest continued unemployment claims are at 14,844,000 which is down from the COVID19 peak of 24,912,000 set in the week of May 9, 2020. 
  • We have registered reductions in continued claims in 11 out of the 13 weeks since the peak claims.
Here is the chart comparing historical records of recovery in continued claims to the current crisis perid:
And the same on the log scale

Comparing current continued claims to pre-recession period claims:

  • Current levels of claims are 8,687,000 higher than pre-recession period high, 13,195,000 above the pre-recession trough and 13,142,000 above the claims registered in the last  month before the onset of the recession.
The key takeaways from this are: 
  1. What matters from now on is not so much the level of the recession peak, but the rate or the speed of the recovery toward pre-recession 'normal'. So far, the rate of recovery has been fast. If sustained, we might be able to avoid much of the damage that arises from long-term unemployment duration. 
  2. The rate of benefits expirations will also matter a lot. We are looking at eligibility for unemployment dropping with weeks ahead, and the supplemental payment to unemployment insurance also falling off. As the two effect bite, the impact on the overall economy from reduced unemployment support schemes can be pronounced, triggering renewed recessionary risk. 
Stay tuned for the analysis of the first time unemployment claims figures next.

23/8/20: America’s Scariest Charts: Employment


Good news, folks, just in time for the Republican National Convention. The latest data, through July 2020, shows some recovery in non-farm payrolls numbers that is bound to make a feature in political chest-beating coming up next week.

Behold the chart:

In basic terms:

  • July non-farm payrolls stood at 139,582,000, up 1.291% on June, and up 9,279,000 on the COVID19 pandemic trough (April 2020). 
  • Average monthly rate of jobs recovery has been so far 3,093,000 through July. Which is worse than 3,749,500 average rate of recovery recorded through June. In other words, we are potentially seeing a slowdown in jobs recoveries.
  • At current average monthly rate of recovery, it will take us just over 4 months to regain jobs lost to COVID19 pandemic, assuming no further slowdown in the rate of recovery (a strong assumption).
  • Currently, non-farm payrolls sit 12,881,000 below their pre-COVID19 peak employment levels, attained in February 2020.
Some of these are good news. Assuming the recovery dynamics remain unchallenged by:
  1. Natural rate of moderation in jobs recoveries
  2. Renewed pressures of COVID19 (see the latest on this here:, or a second wave of the pandemic
  3. The ravages of political uncertainty surrounding November 3 elections (not only Presidential).
One side note: the above comparatives are current-to-past. These, of course, do not take into the account where the U.S. employment figures would have been, absent COVID19 pandemic crisis. Whilst estimating potential employment levels is a hazardous exercise, taking a simple exponential trend (decaying over time) from August 2018 through the latest reported period implies potential July employment level ex-COVID19 of 153,267,800. Which is not that much of a gap to the pre-crisis peak. 

Another side note: if we assume that the rate of decay in jobs additions that prevailed between June and July 2020 (-17% decay) continues into the future (also a strong assumption), jobs recovery to the pre-crisis peak will take us through May 2021. For the pre-pandemic trend case, the recovery will take us into March 2022.

More data analysis of the U.S. labor markets is coming up in subsequent posts, stat tuned. 

25/720: Updated: America’s Scariest Charts: Unemployment Claims

Updating my Scariest Charts for the latest data, through thee week of July 18, 2020:

First, a summary table and chart for changes in the Initial Unemployment Claims:

Next: Continued Unemployment Claims through the week of July 11, 2020:

Key takeaways this week:

Continued unemployment claims changes:

  • Latest count at 16,197,000, down from 17,304,000 a week ago - a decline driven by both, re-gained jobs and exits from unemployment benefits;
  • Latest week w/w decline is faster than in any of the prior weeks of the current recession;
  • Latest counts are 14,495,000 above the levels recorded in the first week of the current recession and are 14,548,000 above pre-recession trough;
  • At last week's rate of decline, we have 13 weeks of unemployment claims to work through before recovering to pre-recession levels; based on the last 4 weeks average - 19 weeks.
New unemployment claims changes:
  • Latest new unemployment claims filed figures are the lowest in the current recession cycle, but materially close to those recorded in the week of July 4, 2020;
  • Nonetheless, we are now in 18 weeks of continued new unemployment claims filings in excess of 1 million per week.
Longer term view:
  • Discontinuation of emergency $600/week unemployment support payment or curtailing of the benefit is likely to push both of the above series down in the short run in mid- to late-August, with a knock-on longer term effect of increasing longer term unemployment claims in September and onward. 

16/720: Updated: America’s Scariest Charts: Unemployment Claims

New data for the week prior on continued and new unemployment claims continues to support a view of a relatively slow and slowing-down recovery in the U.S. labour markets.

Continued unemployment claims:

Continued unemployment claims in the week of July 4 amounted to 17,338,000 down 422,000 on prior week. A week before, the rate of decline was 1,000,000, and in 4 weeks prior to the the week of July 4, 2020, average weekly rate of decline was 711,500. Current 4 weeks average rate of decline is 737,750 driven by two weeks of > 1 million declines. The good news is that we now have 8 consecutive weeks of drops in continued unemployment claims. The bad news is that we do not know how much of the decline from the COVID19 pandemic peak is down to benefits expirations, or due to benefits cancelations due to some income being earned, with restored income being below pre-COVID19 levels. In other words, we have no clue as to whether jobs being restored are of comparable quality to jobs lost.

Next, Initial Unemployment Claims: these remain troubling too. In the week of July 11, 2020, there were 1,503,892 new initial unemployment claims filed, the highest number in 5 weeks.

As the table above highlights, we now have more than 17 weeks of new unemployment claims filings in excess of 1 million. Note: new unemployment claims filings can reflect many factors, including:

  1. A person becoming newly unemployed;
  2. A person who was unemployed and temporarily left unemployment insurance coverage due to receipt of irregular earnings;
  3. A person who was unemployed, and run out of benefits coverage, taking a temporary job, but re-listing as an unemployed at that job expiration; 
  4. A person who was unemployed before but did not secure past unemployment benefits; and
  5. A person who was unemployed but was denied prior benefits due to various reasons.
Here is the history of the Initial Unemployment Claims, smoothed out to a 3mo moving sum:

An updated employment outlook for July 2020: