FACT CHECK: Have Jobless Claims Dropped To A 45-Year Low?

David Sivak | Fact Check Editor

President Donald Trump said Thursday that initial claims for unemployment insurance now stand at a 45-year low.

“The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits just hit a 45-year low,” said Trump during remarks in Western Pennsylvania.

Verdict: True

New applications for unemployment benefits dropped to 220,000 for the week ended Jan. 13. Initial claims have decreased steadily since the Great Recession.

Fact Check:

When Americans apply for unemployment insurance, they submit what’s called an initial claim.

The federal government, in conjunction with states, generally provides up to 26 weeks of unemployment insurance for Americans who have been recently laid off. Applicants must have earned wages for the 12 months prior to receiving benefits.

The Department of Labor publishes the data for new claims weekly and considers the numbers to be a “leading economic indicator of emerging labor market conditions.”

Seasonally-adjusted results for the week ended Jan. 13 reveal that only 220,000 Americans applied for unemployment insurance, the lowest number in nearly 45 years and below forecasters expectations of 250,000 claims.

Jobless claims have been falling ever since they reached a peak of 665,000 during the Great Recession, a trend that economists attribute to the general business cycle.

Today, about 2 million Americans receive unemployment insurance.

The number of new applications nearly beat the previous low of 218,000 (for the week ended Feb. 24, 1973), but weekly data is notoriously volatile, so claims numbers may jump above the 45-year low in the coming weeks.

“This may just be statistical noise,” Giuseppe Moscarini, professor of economics at Yale University, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Initial claims bounced anywhere from 223,000 to 298,000 a week in 2017. They’ve come close to the 218,000 figure multiple times in the last year.

The four-week moving average of initial claims, considered by economists to be a less volatile measure, shows that jobless claims remained relatively steady in 2017.

Low claims numbers come amidst other positive economic indicators. The unemployment rate remained at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent in December.

Trump took credit for the results during his speech. “Something I’m really proud of,” said Trump. “Because I’ve been saying it – what do you have to lose?”

The President has presided over a healthy economy, but economists we spoke to say it’s premature to attribute the recent jobless claims data to a specific policy or legislative action. It’s “hard to tell until we see more data in a year or two,” said Moscarini.

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David Sivak

Fact Check Editor

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