Chart of the Day? Jobless Claims Hit 50 Year Low

Here’s the basic chart for new unemployment claims:

For some reason, the Department of Labor always shows these numbers in their raw form and as a 4-week moving average. I’m not sure why. The moving average smooths things out slightly, but hardly enough to matter, and they don’t do this for any other time series. Why only for this one?

In any case, I want to put up a whole different chart: initial jobless claims as a percent of the labor force. As the population of the country increases, jobless claims are also going to increase, so it hardly makes sense to compare today’s number with those from 1969. Instead, we should look at jobless claims as a percentage of the size of the current labor force:

As you can see, we didn’t set any records this month, as a few people are claiming. We set a record back in July 2014 and jobless claims have been dropping steadily ever since. For better or worse, there’s nothing special going on right now. The economy has been expanding for 108 consecutive months, and if it keeps going for another year it will set the all-time record for longest economic expansion in American history.¹

¹It’s already beaten the 106-month expansion of the go-go 60s, and all that’s left now is to beat the world champion 120-month expansion of the dotcom 90s.

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WHO DOESN’T LOVE A POSITIVE STORY—OR TWO?

“Great journalism really does make a difference in this world: it can even save kids.”

That’s what a civil rights lawyer wrote to Julia Lurie, the day after her major investigation into a psychiatric hospital chain that uses foster children as “cash cows” published, letting her know he was using her findings that same day in a hearing to keep a child out of one of the facilities we investigated.

That’s awesome. As is the fact that Julia, who spent a full year reporting this challenging story, promptly heard from a Senate committee that will use her work in their own investigation of Universal Health Services. There’s no doubt her revelations will continue to have a big impact in the months and years to come.

Like another story about Mother Jones’ real-world impact.

This one, a multiyear investigation, published in 2021, exposed conditions in sugar work camps in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana—the conglomerate behind brands like C&H and Domino, whose product ends up in our Hershey bars and other sweets. A year ago, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from Central Romana. And just recently, we learned of a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into working conditions at Central Romana. How big of a deal is this?

“This could be the first time a corporation would be held criminally liable for forced labor in their own supply chains,” according to a retired special agent we talked to.

Wow.

And it is only because Mother Jones is funded primarily by donations from readers that we can mount ambitious, yearlong—or more—investigations like these two stories that are making waves.

About that: It’s unfathomably hard in the news business right now, and we came up about $28,000 short during our recent fall fundraising campaign. We simply have to make that up soon to avoid falling further behind than can be made up for, or needing to somehow trim $1 million from our budget, like happened last year.

If you can, please support the reporting you get from Mother Jones—that exists to make a difference, not a profit—with a donation of any amount today. We need more donations than normal to come in from this specific blurb to help close our funding gap before it gets any bigger.

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