US jobless claims hovered near a 50-year low in the week through Christmas Day.
Initial claims in the week ending December 25 were 198,000, down 8,000 from the prior week’s upwardly-revised 206,000 headline.
The four-week moving average dropped to 199,250, the lowest since October 25, 1969 (figure below).
Consensus was looking for 206,000 on the headline. The range, from the two-dozen economists who weren’t on vacation, was 190,000 to 225,000. Claims have been at or near 52-year lows for the better part of a month.
You can insert your own boilerplate copy. Obviously, employers aren’t keen to fire anyone. In fact, it’s the opposite. Workers are inclined to quit (figure below), in part because there’s every reason to believe a better wage is available across the street, figuratively or, in the case of a chain grocery store I visited earlier this month which shared a parking lot with a competitor, literally.
It’s possible the spread of the Omicron variant will suppress hiring in leisure and hospitality and other high-contact sectors of the economy, but it’s equally likely that the latest virus wave will serve as yet another impediment on the road to reengaging still-sidelined workers.
Continuing claims dropped 140,000 to 1.716 million in the week to December 18.
Notably, the three-month moving average of continuing claims is around 1.9 million. That’s not too far removed from the 1,766,000 print from the week of January 4, 2020.
Ostensibly, the claims figures are something for The White House to boast about, but when inflation is running the hottest in four decades and wage growth isn’t keeping up in some sectors, it’s difficult to make the case.