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A Glimpse Inside The Department Of Labor's Curious Initial Claims Seasonal Adjustment

Tyler Durden's picture


Something curious happened earlier today when the DOL revealed its latest initial claims number: while the seasonally adjusted print declined by 10,000 to an expectations beating 316K (a change that identically matched what happened to the Seasonally Adjusted print a year ago), the unadjusted number rose by 37,229 to 363K. That's ok: after all that's what "seasonal adjustments" are for - to take a volatile number which historically posts an abnormal jump or drop in any given week and smooth it out, right? Wrong. Because as the DOL also reported a year ago, the supposedly same "seasonal adjustment" applied to the same week in 2012, when the claims number was 390K adjusted and 359K unadjusted, should have been adjusted in the same direction. And while the 390K claims print in 2012 was indeed a 10,000 drop from the prior week's 400K, the unadjusted number instead of being an increase, was actually a drop, one of 44,768 jobs. How does this same "recurring" seasonal adjustment look further back - after all it is seasonal, so there should be some recurring logic for a specific time of the year? The answer is shown on the chart below.

In other words, the "same" adjustment that in the past was applied to an NSA weekly change that was a greater drop than the seasonally adjusted print, somehow in 2013 ended up having its sign flipped, and made the weekly spike in claims look much better than it actually was. For the exactly same week.

One wonders just what other goalseeking intentions (and directive) the BLS had when it ordered the Arima "adjustment" software to make such a radical departure in this specific week?


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Wed, 11/27/2013 - 11:51 | Link to Comment NoDebt
NoDebt's picture

Thanksgiving is late this year.  How much water does that explanation hold?

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 12:41 | Link to Comment hedgeless_horseman
hedgeless_horseman's picture



"What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by
little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions
deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so
complicated that the government had to act on information which the
people could not understand
, or so dangerous that, even if the people
could understand it, it could not be released because of national
security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in
him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would
otherwise have worried about it."

Trust the government. 

They are smart people. 

You cannot possibly understand data as complex as people filing for unemployment claims, so don't even try. 

Rest assured. 

This is nothing to worry about.

Enjoy your holiday shopping.

Thu, 11/28/2013 - 04:30 | Link to Comment Oracle 911
Oracle 911's picture

You sounds like the propaganda from Roman Empire and the German 4th Reich.


Frankly, it is the propaganda from Roman Empire and the German 4th Reich.

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 12:30 | Link to Comment James-Morrison
James-Morrison's picture

It could Obamacare.  It is so positive for the economy (all of those techical types hired to get fixed). 

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 11:53 | Link to Comment Nothing but the...
Nothing but the truth.'s picture

Ah yes - a perfectly timed bit of good news to warm the hearts of Americans over thaksgiving. Very doubtful that it's the truth however.

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 12:07 | Link to Comment SkottFree
SkottFree's picture

Just a primer for Obama's next "Things are getting Better" speech due out in the very near future.

This takes place shortly after the shit hits the fan on some other issue that he has totally fucked up again and he needs to tell the sheepel that its all good see!

Just like the AMA webs site total failure, skyrocketing premiums, less real coverage issues over the last month that got all better after a couple of speeches!

Now get back to work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 11:57 | Link to Comment replaceme
replaceme's picture

I need Boris to explain this to me.

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 12:01 | Link to Comment Dr. Engali
Dr. Engali's picture

Would you like cranberry sauce served with your bullshit sandwich the day before turkey day?

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 12:06 | Link to Comment Rainman
Rainman's picture

...and a second helping of channel stuffing ?

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 12:17 | Link to Comment Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill's picture

It is well 'cooked', with a side of pixie dust..

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 12:35 | Link to Comment El Vaquero
El Vaquero's picture

Sorry guys, I snorted all of the pixie dust.  Now I'm feeling a little light in the loafers, and I have a whole new understanding of Obama. 

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 12:09 | Link to Comment logicalman
logicalman's picture

Looks kinda parabolic to me!

Should be about +120,000 next year.

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 12:18 | Link to Comment QQQBall
QQQBall's picture

Good news, right before Black Friday. Bad news is bad for sales

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 12:21 | Link to Comment mayhem_korner
mayhem_korner's picture



I would say cell reference error except that the answer is written on the back of a napkin - one that has the seal of the Prez on the front.

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 12:21 | Link to Comment Obamanation
Obamanation's picture

Seems this has been happening frequently lately.  Has anyone inquired about this to the BLS (BS for short)?

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 12:30 | Link to Comment El Vaquero
El Vaquero's picture


BS for short

Bureau of Lying Sycophants

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 12:25 | Link to Comment Bryan
Bryan's picture

If you can't dazzle them with brilliance...

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 14:38 | Link to Comment WOAR
WOAR's picture

Razzle Dazzle 'Em, Chicago style.

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 12:28 | Link to Comment El Vaquero
El Vaquero's picture

A while back, I was interested in how gas prices were seasonally adjusted because there was a period where there was no MoM change, yet the CPI-U was reporting a seasonal adjustment claiming that gas prices had dropped by 3%.  Well, gas prices were all over the map, so I went to some BLS data to see if I could reconstruct some of their seasonal adjustments.  I think I used the employment rate (number of employed persons) as the data.  What I wound up doing was finding a period where there was a linear trend, i.e. 1994-2007, subtracted that trend out, averaged all of the January data, all of the Feb data, all of the March data, etc... took the differences from the mean of the data with the trend subtracted out, and used those differences to adjust the data.  What I wound up with was correlated with the BLS's seasonal adjustment so well (i.e .998) that they either do what I did or they use something that is mathematically equivalent.  


Then I went back and looked at gas prices.  The dataset that I had going back into the '90s had no trend to subtract out, meaning that for the past 15 or 20 years, any seasonal variations on gas prices is lost in the noise, and thus, it is arguable that seasonally adjusting gas prices for the CPI-U is bogus.  But it does allow the BLS to understate price inflation. 


I fucking hate being lied to, especially by the government. 

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 12:37 | Link to Comment Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill's picture

I just assume all Govt. information is a lie until proven otherwise.

Although cycnical, I am right more often than them.

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 13:15 | Link to Comment El Vaquero
El Vaquero's picture

Certainly.  It seems as though the lies are coming faster and faster and are more blatant too.  Another thing that should be of concern is the relationship between U3 and U6 unemployment.  The two datasets are too highly correlated, and given the apocalypse in full time jobs, should have really started diverging around 2008-2009.  I mean, we all know that U3 is BS because of how it is defined and probably how it is measured, but U6 is supposed to capture more than U3, and thus should diverge every once in a while.  In stead, it's like they said, "Meh, just multiply U3 by 1.8 to get U6."  I'm not sure exactly what they're doing with U6, but the stench of bullshit is overwhelming. 

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 12:35 | Link to Comment CrashisOptimistic
CrashisOptimistic's picture

There will be an investigation, just as there is into the unemployment report of Oct 2012 taking place now, and we'lll finally get to the bottom of this.

Or you can just presume the investigation will say all is well and not bother with it.

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 12:37 | Link to Comment CrashisOptimistic
CrashisOptimistic's picture

BTW I thought this sort of news meant taper on.

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 12:52 | Link to Comment JR
JR's picture

From consumer confidence numbers to housing to unemployment to the jobs report to the Iran nuclear agreement report, can it now be said that all can be a tissue of lies depending on what political spin the Executive Branch of the U.S. government needs.

While RT today says “Tehran has strongly rejected Washington’s interpretation of the long-awaited interim nuclear agreement," the NY Post and others this month accused the Census Bureau of falsifying unemployment numbers to help Obama in his reelection…

Census Bureau accused of falsifying numbers | Human Events

If this story from the New York Post is confirmed, it’s one of the blockbuster stories of the decade.  It looks as if suspicions that the Labor Department’s unemployment surveys include false data have been borne out:

In the home stretch of the 2012 presidential campaign, from August to September, the unemployment rate fell sharply — raising eyebrows from Wall Street to Washington.

The decline — from 8.1 percent in August to 7.8 percent in September — might not have been all it seemed. The numbers, according to a reliable source, were manipulated.

And the Census Bureau, which does the unemployment survey, knew it. ...

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 16:30 | Link to Comment jim249
jim249's picture

Old news.

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 13:10 | Link to Comment viator
viator's picture

Much like the IPCC, NOAA, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies regarding global warming. Make up the numbers, who can tell the difference? And if they can tell the difference call them a liar.

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 13:21 | Link to Comment hound dog vigilante
hound dog vigilante's picture

C'mon guys... it's so simple...

They're setting the stage for NEXT year/november - imagine all of the curious 'adjustments' that our highly politicized bureaucrats will have to float in 2014 during the mid-term elections...

A few odd outliers this year will help these toadies (and their elected masters) cover their tracks next year...

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 13:22 | Link to Comment Quinvarius
Quinvarius's picture

Nothing they do changes the reality.    They are dishonest failures and all they can do now is lie.  And as long as they tell themselves lies, there are no problems that need to be fixed.  So nothing will ever get fixed. 

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 14:49 | Link to Comment WOAR
WOAR's picture

It reminds of China's Great Leap Forward.

When all of the people down the line don't have the heart or stomach to tell Dear Leader that the plan is going to shit...then the world will continue to go to shit, and no one will do anything about it.

Play, Nero, play, the fire is just getting started.

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 13:42 | Link to Comment orangegeek
orangegeek's picture

All governments lie.


Barry has handed down the order that all reports show growth.


And the IRS can go fuck themselves.

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 15:22 | Link to Comment Stuck on Zero
Stuck on Zero's picture

Me thinks the major "seasonal adjustments" come in the form of 4 Washington seasons:

Election Season

Sagging in the Polls Season

Glossing the Numbers Season

Budget Talk Season


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