How to Trade the US Initial Jobless Claims: A Comprehensive Guide


The US Initial Jobless Claims report provides valuable insights into the number of individuals filing for unemployment benefits for the first time. 

This guide will share the exact strategy that professional traders use to take money from the 95% of losing retail traders. By following our step-by-step guide, you’ll learn how to level the playing field and effectively trade the Initial Jobless Claims report.

Understanding the US Initial Jobless Claims

The Initial Jobless Claims report, released weekly by the US Department of Labor, details the number of new unemployment claims filed by individuals. While it doesn’t have the same immediate impact as the monthly Non-Farm Payrolls (NFP) or Consumer Price Index (CPI) reports, it offers a timely view of the labor market’s current health.

Understanding the US Initial Jobless Claims

  1. Labor Market Health: It gives immediate insights into job losses, reflecting the short-term health of the labor market.
  2. Economic Indicator: It is a leading indicator of economic activity, often used to predict broader economic trends.
  3. Market Sentiment: Unexpected changes in jobless claims can significantly influence market sentiment and trading strategies.

Why Initial Jobless Claims Often Won’t Move the Market

  1. High Frequency: Released weekly, it’s often seen as noise rather than a signal unless there are substantial deviations.
  2. Tier 2 Status: It’s not as prominent as NFP or CPI, so it usually doesn’t create significant market waves. Traders often prioritize other economic indicators over jobless claims.

Trading Strategy for Initial Jobless Claims

Step 1: Analyze Federal Reserve Priorities

The first step is to understand what data points the Federal Reserve is currently focused on. If the Fed is focused on employment data, the Initial Jobless Claims report will have a significant amount of volatility because the Fed is in some way basing its interest rate decisions on that data release.

To quickly determine the Fed’s current focus, you can use our Professional Economic Calendar, which includes a fundamental guide.

Step 2: Use High-Low Expectation Forecasts

Professional traders rely on high-low forecasts to gauge market expectations accurately. Here’s a more detailed look at why these forecasts are crucial:

  1. Institutional Forecasts: Professional economic calendars include high and low estimates from top institutions. This broader range of expectations offers a more comprehensive picture of potential outcomes.
  2. Market Shocks: When a report exceeds the high estimate or falls below the low estimate, it’s a huge shock to markets because no analyst expected it. Such deviations often result in sharp market movements.
  3. Lightning Bolt Feature: This tool immediately signals a deviation above the high or below the low of analyst expectations. When a deviation occurs, the lightning bolt feature alerts traders instantly, allowing them to act without delay. The quick reaction to unexpected data can be the difference between a profitable trade and a missed opportunity.

Understanding High-Low Forecasts

Economic forecasts are derived from surveys of credible institutions, each providing their best estimate on upcoming data points. Retail calendars typically present the median of these estimates, which can be misleading.

The median forecast doesn’t reveal the full range of expectations and, therefore, doesn’t indicate how surprising an actual data release is compared to the extremes of analysts’ projections.

In contrast, professional economic calendars include both high and low estimates. This additional information shows the analysts’ expectations at the extreme ends of their projections.

Great trading opportunities arise when data releases fall outside these high and low estimates, creating market shocks that move prices significantly.

Step 3: Choosing the Most Volatile Instrument to Trade

Using insights from institutional reports, traders can select the most responsive currency pairs. 

For example, if USD/JPY is particularly sensitive to economic data as outlined by the City Economic Surprise Index and Initial Jobless Claims shows a significant deviation, this pair could be an ideal target for trading.

  1. City Economic Surprise Index: This report identifies currency pairs that react strongly to economic surprises. It highlights pairs that are sensitive to data deviations, helping traders focus on the most responsive markets.
  2. Risk-Reversal Report: This report shows market positioning, revealing a buildup of call or put options on certain currency pairs. Understanding these positions helps traders choose a pair that may have orders susceptible to getting liquidated upon the release of an economic data point.
  3. CFTC Report: This report details hedge funds’ positions. If many big players are long the EUR/USD but then data comes out in favor of the USD, some of those funds might have to unwind their positions, leading to an outsized move.

Trade Execution Steps

Confirm Fed Focus

Ensure the Federal Reserve is currently emphasizing employment data. If employment is a primary focus, the Initial Jobless Claims report will have a higher likelihood of moving the market.

Remember, if the central bank is focused on the data point, it’s because they are using that data point to make a decision on rates. This is why data points that are focused on cause volatility.

Check Forecast Ranges

Before the data release, review the high and low forecast expectations for the event. Plan to trade only if the actual data significantly exceeds the high estimate or falls below the low estimate. This strategy ensures you act on genuinely surprising data and there will most likely be a follow-through reaction.

Monitor Revisions

Check for any conflicting revisions in the data, as these can alter the initial market reaction. Make sure the primary release and any revisions align to support your trade.

Enter Trade Promptly

Once you confirm the deviation, act quickly to enter your trade. Enter within the first 30 seconds. Speed is crucial, as market reactions to significant data surprises happen rapidly.

Set Stop and Take Profit

  1. Stop-Loss: Place your stop-loss below the low of the initial spike candle to protect against adverse movements.
  2. Take Profit: Aim for 15-30 pips for tier 2 events like Initial Jobless Claims, adjusting based on market conditions and volatility.

Managing the Trade

After the Initial Run

Look for a shallow pullback around a 23% Fibonacci retracement or near support/resistance levels. This initial pullback can provide an opportunity to enter the trade again after you’ve taken a few points off the table after your first entry.

Break Even

Move your stop-loss to break even as soon as possible to protect your gains. The market should want to buy off your support/resistance level and continue to the highs of the one-minute candle and break. If that doesn’t happen, something could be off.


If your initial position is stopped out at break even, consider reentering at deeper retracements, such as the 38% or 50% Fibonacci levels. Use nearby support and resistance levels to guide your re-entry points.


While the US Initial Jobless Claims report may not always lead to significant market movements, understanding its nuances and using a professional trading strategy can help you capitalize on unexpected deviations.

If you don’t have the tools mentioned above, try out our Professional Economic Calendar Package and use institutional tools to level the playing field.

By following these steps, you’ll be well-prepared to trade the Initial Jobless Claims report effectively, leveraging the same strategies that professional traders use to profit from this economic data release.

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