There have been 15 weeks of new jobless claims reports released in 2012. The average number of new unemployment insurance claims has been 392,200 per week (not seasonally adjusted). Between 2004 and 2006, a period of modest annual employment growth of 1.7% or 2.24 million per year, the average number of new jobless claims was 328,800 per week. Weekly jobless claims are substantially (19%) higher than they were in 2004-2006, when the economy was creating about 187,000 net new jobs per month.
New jobless claims are filed by people who have lost their jobs, so it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which new jobless claims could be much higher than they are now, given the current state of the labor market. Data from the BLS JOLTS survey indicate that in the six months between September 2011 and February 2012, about 420,600 workers were laid off (or discharged) from their job each week, on average. This means that in 2012 new jobless claims have been about 93.2% of layoffs per week, on average. Between 2004 and 2006 new jobless claims were about 78% of layoffs, on average, per week. We know that the labor market is struggling when almost everyone who loses their job files for unemployment insurance.