The United States government releases two sets of unemployment numbers, the weekly unemployment claims, monthly claims and nonfarm payroll numbers. The monthly numbers have more weight but the weekly claims provide you with tremendous information on a regular basis. The weekly unemployment claim number measures the total number of persons who filed for the benefits for the first time in the previous week. This does not include those who applied for unemployment benefits before or after the week designated. Numbers are typically released on Thursday morning at 8:30, Eastern Time.

Total number of unemployment and employment are higher in some parts of the year than others. For instance, unemployment is usually higher in the months of January and February when it is cold in many areas in the country and work in construction, agriculture and other seasonal business is curtailed. Furthermore, both unemployment and employment rise each June when students enter the labor force looking or summer jobs.

These variations make it hard to determine whether month-to-month changes in unemployment and employment are due to seasonal patterns or economic changes. Looking at the claims numbers on a weekly basis can be hard due to volatility. Nonetheless, if you take a look at a 4-week moving average of the weekly unemployment claims, you will get a clearer picture of where unemployment is headed in America.

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