economy Markets

Jobless Claims: ‘Better’ Is An Extremely Relative Term These Days

860,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, broadly in-line with market expectations.

The latest data underscores the notion that the labor market has found an unhappy “equilibrium”, with claims stalling at levels that are still far above anything witnessed pre-COVID.

The previous week’s level was revised higher by 9,000 to 893,000. The four-week moving average fell to 912,000.

Continuing claims in the week ending September 5 were 12.63 million. That looks like a beat. The market expected 13 million.

At this point, weekly claims may have lost their capacity to move the market barring a significant upside (or downside) surprise.

Frankly, it feels like most observers have acquiesced to the notion that this is about as “good” as it’s going to get, and that improvements from here will be slow until additional fiscal stimulus comes through.

Donald Trump is now throwing his weight behind a compromise virus relief package with a price tag of $1.5 trillion in a bid to break a stalemate that threatens to persist right up to election eve.

The extra federal unemployment assistance authorized under Trump’s August executive order is already exhausted for some early adopter states, and just getting going in others. Anecdotally, some of America’s millions of jobless are confused as to whether the extra assistance Trump decreed last month is actually available. “Is that even real?”, one reader (a self-described service sector worker) asked, in an e-mail. I assured him it was, but I suppose for someone who is unemployed, it’s only “real” when it’s in their hands.

The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending August 29 rose 98,456 to 29,768,326.

Ultimately, this doesn’t move the needle for the macro outlook. One might conceivably argue it’s “better” than expected at the margins, but “better” is an extremely relative term these days. One could just as easily describe the above as unequivocally awful.


1 comment on “Jobless Claims: ‘Better’ Is An Extremely Relative Term These Days

  1. derek says:

    Similar to watching a stock jump 7% after reporting “a smaller than expected loss” of 77 cents rather than 80 cents a share. But the stakes are higher here.

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