744,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, far more than the 680,000 consensus expected.
It was the second consecutive weekly rise. The previous week’s total was revised higher to 728,000.
Two weeks don’t make a trend, but this isn’t the best news considering initial claims had fallen below the pre-pandemic record during the week of March 20. Some heralded that as a milestone and a potential inflection point. Any (socially distant) celebrations may have been premature.
The four-week moving average rose to 723,750.
Once again, we see that labor market malaise is ongoing, despite the contention that more blockbuster NFP prints like March’s headline number are a foregone conclusion.
Continuing claims for the week ended March 27 were 3.73 million. That was also a disappointment. Consensus there was 3.64 million.
Still, ongoing claims are at the lowest level since March 21, 2020, during the earliest days of the panic.
Whether this is material for the narrative is debatable, but I would note that the miss on the headline in this week’s release wasn’t trivial. The range from three-dozen economists was 636,000 to 715,000. That means the actual print was worse than the most pessimistic guess. And, again, two weeks in a row is definitely the wrong direction. (Incidentally, the title of this article is a Planes, Trains & Automobiles reference, for any fans out there.)
If you forced me to say something meaningful, I suppose what I’d offer is this: Expectations for a rapid and uninterrupted labor market recovery in the US are now running very high. While one, or two or even three weeks of disappointing claims data likely won’t derail the overarching macro story, elevated expectations are inherently vulnerable to disappointment.
In this case, it’s a “just when you thought it was safe”-type dynamic.