Jobless Claims Unexpectedly Jump As $242 Billion Hits Bank Accounts

770,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, far more than anticipated.

The uptick comes on the heels of an encouraging decline to 712,000 the previous week. That figure was revised up to 725,000 in the latest release.

The market was looking for 700,000 on Thursday, so the headline looked to be a disappointment, although not a disaster.

The four-week moving average fell to 746,250.

This is a reminder that progress notwithstanding, the US labor market remains deeply depressed. February payrolls were obviously upbeat, and nascent momentum in services is expected to pick up as the pace of vaccinations quickens. The Biden administration has suggested that summer could feel something like “normal.”

Continuing claims for the week ended March 6 were 4.12 million, more than the 4.03 million the market expected, but still lower WoW.

Initial Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims dropped a sizable 196,520. Ongoing PUA and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation claims were 7,615,386 and 4,815,348, respectively, on February 27. Those figures were both markedly lower from the previous week.

The latest pseudo-real-time read on the labor market comes as stimulus checks hit the bank accounts of lower- and middle-income Americans, and as Joe Biden’s relief bill extends key unemployment benefits and support which were set to lapse this month.

Again, this just underscores the notion that whatever one might be inclined to believe about the state of the world’s largest economy based on the hodgepodge of available indicators, the labor market is nowhere close to healed. As long as that remains the case, expect the Fed to stick to (new) script.

Treasury said Wednesday the government processed 90 million payments in the first batch of direct relief, totaling some $242 billion.


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