Now that the dust of the Sandy storm has settled, we find that seasonally adjusted layoffs early this year were a bit below the average of the past year. There is no sign of any deterioration in the labor market; on the contrary, the trend over the past year has been and continues to be one of gradual improvement.
The 4-week moving average of claims last week was very close to its post-recession low. Nonseasonally adjusted claims last week were actually 14% lower than they were a year ago.
Compared to the size of the workforce, the current level of claims is historically lo, as the above chart shows.
But thanks to generous extensions of unemployment insurance and the exodus of 5 million or so from the labor force, the percent of the labor force receiving unemployment compensation remains historically high, even though it has declined significantly in the past two years.
This is one problem area of the labor market: 2 million people are still being paid unemployment insurance via the Emergency Claims provision after exhausting their regular state benefits. The other problem, of course, is that the pace of hirings has been lackluster. The fiscal cliff deal extended the emergency claims provision for another year; otherwise it would have now expired.