Job losses continue to decline in 2016. The number of unemployment insurance claims filed in the first three weeks of January 2016 averaged 284,410, a decrease compared to previous years. The average number of jobless claims filed is also below 300,000, a level that is indicative of the normal churning of the job market.
But although job losses have declined nationally, states that are being buffeted by the drop in oil prices are experiencing job losses and net job declines. Based on the latest available data from January-November 2015 (Table 1), the number of workers filing unemployment insurance claims rose in Louisiana, Oklahoma, North Dakota, New Mexico, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming. The number of claims rose to 1.24 million in January-November 2015, or 139,562 more claims compared to the number of filings in the same period in 2014. Nationally, the number of claims filed decreased by 1.46 million.
Job losses (reflected in the number of unemployment insurance claims filed) can be offset by job creation. But as the latest November 2015 data indicates, payroll employment also declined in the oil-producing states except in Texas and New Mexico (Table 2). The hardest-hit state is North Dakota, where payroll employment contracted by 14,000 in November 2015 compared to a year ago. Only Texas appears to be weathering the oil prices collapse, with the economy gaining 179,000 net new jobs. Nationally, the economy generated 2.5 million more jobs in 2015 compared to 2014.
Given the headwinds coming from falling oil prices, NAR projects that the economy will grow at a modest pace that will support 5.34 million of existing home sales in 2016, an increase from the forecasted 5.2 million existing homes sold in 2015.