The Department of Labor today reported another small uptick in jobless claims last week. Rather than focus on that, however, we’ll call attention to the bold-face statement below (our bolding).
In the week ending April 3, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 744,000, an increase of 16,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 9,000 from 719,000 to 728,000. The 4-week moving average was 723,750, an increase of 2,500 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised up by 2,250 from 719,000 to 721,250.
The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.6 percent for the week ending March 27, unchanged from the previous week’s revised rate. The previous week’s rate was revised down by 0.1 from 2.7 to 2.6 percent. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending March 27 was 3,734,000, a decrease of 16,000 from the previous week’s revised level. This is the lowest level for insured unemployment since March 21, 2020 when it was 3,094,000.
To us, that looks like progress. The Associated Press report also notes signs of a strengthening economy and puts the claims numbers in context.
Economists monitor weekly jobless claims for early signs of where the job market is headed. Applications are usually a proxy for layoffs: They typically decline as the economy improves. Or they rise as employers retrench in response to sluggish consumer demand.
During the pandemic, though, the numbers have become a less reliable barometer. States have struggled to clear backlogs of unemployment applications, and suspected fraud has clouded the actual volume of job cuts.
By nearly all measures, though, the economy has been strengthening. During March, employers added 916,000 jobs, the most since August, and the unemployment rate declined from 6.2% to 6%. In February, the pace of job openings reached its highest level on record. Last month, consumer confidence posted its highest reading in a year.
And this week, the International Monetary Fund forecast that the U.S. economy will grow 6.4% this year. That would fastest annual pace since 1984 and the strongest among the world’s wealthiest countries.
All of which suggests that employers will keep hiring steadily this year as the broader economy improves.
More at the link.
We’d add to the upbeat news the report that growth in the U.S. services sector has climbed to an all-time high.
Growth in the U.S. services sector business activity accelerated significantly in March to an all-time high, retracing the weather-related weakness in the prior month and signaling a strong recovery in industries that have been most hit by pandemic disruptions.