Mess in California is likely skewing US initial jobless claims higher

Claims are being estimated because of an overhaul to its system

California paused accepting jobless claims benefits for two weeks to overhaul its overloaded system but began taking claims again last week.

If national figures took those at face value, there would be a huge surge in claims this week accounting for all the people who couldn’t file previously. A normalization will take 2-3 weeks.

During the pause and continuing now, the Labor Department has estimated claims based on the mid-September level of 226K.

That’s probably overstating the true level. It accounted for 27% of claims last week nationwide, which is well-above the long-term average near 20%. A normalized number would be close to 200K and shave around 25K off the national number.

Does it matter?

Probably not. The jobless claims numbers have rarely been market moving since the pandemic began.

Instead the market is focused on stimulus talks and the potential for unemployed workers to receive special benefits once again.

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