In a welcome reprieve, US jobless claims fell sharply last week.
730,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits, down 111,000 from a downwardly revised 841,000 the previous week.
The market was looking for 825,000. The range was 760,000 to 900,000, so the headline print was better than the most optimistic guess from 40 economists.
The four-week moving average fell to 807,750.
This comes with the usual caveats. 730,000 is not “good” in an absolute sense. In fact, it’s terrible. A year (almost) into the pandemic, the US is still posting weekly claims numbers on par with the worst weeks in pre-pandemic history.
Still, the last couple of reports witnessed an alarming rise, so to get a print that’s the lowest since the end of November (as this week’s is) counts as “good” news, even as 730,000 would be unthinkable outside the pandemic context.
Continuing claims for the week ended February 13 were 4.419 million. That too is better than consensus, but it’s (still) just a sideways slog. The previous week was revised higher.
Initial Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims fell 61,460, while ongoing PUA and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation claims sat at 7,518,951 and 5,065,890, respectively, as of February 6.
The good news (in addition to the better-than-expected headline) is that at this juncture, Democrats won’t be deterred in the stimulus push. The US is getting another sizable fiscal package. So, incrementally positive data probably shouldn’t be seen as something that could jeopardize additional virus relief.
The bad news is just that a year later, claims are still above the pre-pandemic record. That’s inexcusable for the richest nation in the history of the world.