847,000 Americans Fell Victim To ‘Meritocracy’ Last Week

Good news! “Only” 847,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week.

This is yet another week when market participants (and pundits who used to be market participants) get to cite an objectively horrendous jobless claims print as a positive development.

There is, of course, nothing “good” about initial claims printing 847,000. Outside of the pandemic context, that would surely be a misprint. And yet, so accustomed to this situation are we, that figures like that count as “beats” when they come in better than “consensus,” which is even more meaningless than usual given the impossibility of forecasting during a global public health crisis. The range this week was 800,000 to 950,000.

The previous week’s 900,000 print was revised higher to 914,000. The 4-week moving average moved to 868,000, up 16,250.

Enhanced benefits for the jobless were extended under the latest stimulus package, but will expire in March if some version of Joe Biden’s relief plan doesn’t pass Congress.

Continuing claims were 4.77 million in the week ended January 16. That too was better than the market expected. The (meaningless) consensus estimate was 5.09 million.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims fell 20,472 in the week ended January 23. Ongoing PUA and PEUC claims both jumped, to 7,334,193 and 3,863,548, respectively, in the week to January 9.

Again, I would just implore folks to assess this objectively and realistically. “Consensus” doesn’t matter. Forecasts are meaningless. These figures are awful on any objective interpretation.

Obviously, that’s not meant to suggest it’s not an incrementally positive development when the numbers drop from the previous week. But “incremental” is the key word.

We’re still miles away from “normal” and if Congress doesn’t act, “normal” will continue to appear as little more than a mirage in the distance as everyone crawls slowly through the desert in search of an oasis. Unfortunately, lower-income Americans may die of thirst (figuratively) or of hunger (literally) waiting on their elected officials to act.

Remember, this recovery is nowhere near complete for most Americans.

If you’re represented by the dark grey line or the dark pink line in the figure (above) consider yourself blessed and lucky. Because you’re both.


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One thought on “847,000 Americans Fell Victim To ‘Meritocracy’ Last Week

  1. It’s about time the Government in DC started focusing on and being held accountable for basic social economic measures like the ‘blue line’ in the chart above. Maybe it seems like they are, but look at their public remarks and simple measures are quickly lost in a sea of obfuscation, finger pointing and running for cover. Mainstream media is complicit as they appear eager to let the pols control the dialogue. Now I’m going to spit in the wind and see how that works.

NEWSROOM crewneck & prints