712,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, slightly less than the market expected.
Economists were looking for 725,000. The previous week was revised higher by 9,000.
Take note: 712,000 is (basically) tied for the lowest weekly print of the pandemic era. That, as Joe Biden’s relief plan is over the finish line, with stimulus checks poised to start hitting bank accounts within days. The legislation extended the $300 per week federal unemployment supplement through September.
The four-week moving average for claims dropped to 759,000.
This comes on the heels of an upbeat February jobs report which, despite showing a disconcerting increase in long-term unemployment, nevertheless suggested the US labor market may be on the mend — in earnest this time.
The new stimulus plan provides relief to small businesses and restaurants which, combined with the boost to incomes from direct checks, could give the service sector more momentum, especially as vaccine rollout takes the country closer to herd immunity.
Continuing claims for the week ended February 27 were 4.144 million. That was essentially in line with consensus and looks like a pandemic low.
Initial Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims rose nearly 42,000, while ongoing PUA and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation claims were 8,387,194 and 5,454,740, respectively, for the week ended February 20.
At the risk of expressing undue (or unfounded) optimism, this looks like further evidence that the US is indeed on its way to exiting the crisis, even if the light at the end of the tunnel remains a mere glint for millions of Americans still jobless.
It’s amazing what happens when you prioritize science and take common sense steps to counter a biological threat. Throw in a semblance of competence around vaccine rollout and you end up flattening curves.
Still, there’s a long (long) way to go before claims normalize and before the labor market can be described as “healthy.”
Thankfully, the new relief package (pork-laden though it may be) at least acknowledges that the time to quit is most assuredly not when victory is within reach. Critics will continue to argue that $1.9 trillion was “too much” and that the bill is insufficiently “targeted.” One wonders if GOP lawmakers will remain critical in the event their constituents benefit from the legislation.
As noted here on Wednesday, it’s at least possible that Republicans in Washington are out of touch with voters. While no Republican lawmaker voted for the stimulus bill, 41% of Republican and Republican-leaning Independents supported it in a nationwide poll. Explain that.
Read more: $1 Trillion In Your Pocket