Yesterday we wrote that the rise in inflation to 7% validated voters assess,emt that the economy is the top issue facing lawmakers this year. Today, more validation comes in the news that unemployment claims and wholesale prices are rising.
The U.S. Department of Labor reports,
In the week ending January 8, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 230,000, an increase of 23,000 from the previous week’s unrevised level of 207,000. The 4-week moving average was 210,750, an increase of 6,250 from the previous week’s unrevised average of 204,500.
The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.1 percent for the week ending January 1, a decrease of 0.2 percentage point from the previous week’s unrevised rate.
We should also note that the low unemployment rate comes as the labor participation rate remains uncommonly low.
The Associated Press reports,
U.S. jobless claims climbed by 23,000 last week to 230,000, the Department of Labor said Thursday. The four-week moving average, which smooths out week-to-week blips, rose nearly 6,300 to almost 211,000.
The weekly applications, a proxy for layoffs, have risen in four of the last five weeks, a period that runs in tandem with the spread of the omicron variant. Yet the jobs market has bounced back strongly from last year’s coronavirus recession. Jobless claims had fallen mostly steadily for about a year and they dipped below the pre-pandemic average of around 220,000 a week.
“The rise in claims likely reflects an increase in layoffs due to the surge in COVID cases,” said economists Nancy Vanden Houten and Kathy Bostjancic of Oxford Economics. “Claims may remain elevated in the near term, but we expect initial claims will gravitate back to the 200k level once the omicron wave passes. Encouragingly, there are indications that cases from the omicron variant are peaking.”
We sure hope so.
Another sign of concern.
Prices at the wholesale level surged by a record 9.7% for all of 2021, setting an annual record and providing further evidence that inflation is still present at all levels of the U.S. economy.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that its producer price index, which measures inflation before it reaches consumers, did slow on a monthly basis, rising just 0.2% in December compared with November, when prices had shot up 1%.
The 12-month increase in wholesale inflation of 9.7% was also lower than a revised 9.8% increase for the 12 months ending in November. However, the government uses the December to December change for the yearly increase and on that basis the 9.7% rise was the fastest annual jump on record, far above the 0.8% increase in 2020 and the 1.4% rise in 2019.
The economic uncertainty suggested by these data would argue for caution as lawmakers make their budget decisions this year.