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Spike in Unemployment Insurance Claims is Likely Weather-Related

In each Economic Update, the Research staff analyzes recently released economic indicators and addresses what these indicators mean for REALTORS® and their clients. Today’s update discusses unemployment insurance.

  • Initial claims for unemployment insurance[1] for the week ending February 22 spiked up to 348,000, an increase of 14,000 from the previous week’s number. Not to be alarmed – the increase appears due to be driven by the inclement winter conditions since December.  Under most state programs, those currently employed who are temporarily out of work through no fault of their own can file for unemployment insurance. Construction jobs which are also mostly hourly-paid jobs were likely the most impacted. The Department of Labor will release the list of states with an increase or decrease in claims of 1,000 next week, but we expect that this weather-related cause is likely to show up in the data.
  • In short, the spike does not appear to be related to any long-term employment or economic fundamental and should cause no undue alarm about the underlying health of the job market. On a year-to-date basis, the average number of claims filed is still lower than that in 2012-2013 and a number that is considered by analysts as “normal.”

  • What this means for REALTORS®: Jobs are steadily if slowly growing. Under the current favorable conditions, NAR forecasts about 5.1 million sales of existing homes in 2014.

[1] Claims filed under the regular state programs, seasonally adjusted