Unemployment claims up in Washington; modest increase in US consumer spending; and other economic news to ponder.

Unemployment claims jumped last week in Washington, in contrast to a decline in national claims. Paul Roberts reports in The Seattle Times,

Washingtonians filed 5,545 new, or “initial,” claims for jobless benefits last week, up nearly 16% from the prior week, according to data posted Thursday by the state Employment Security Department. 

The good news: New jobless claims in Washington aren’t out of line with historical patterns, which tend to reflect higher seasonal layoffs this time of year. Last week’s claims were still well below the number filed in the same week in pre-pandemic 2019.

Workers in Washington are also benefiting as employers seek to entice them with higher wages and other inducements. This week, two Seattle-area employers — Costco and Starbucks — announced plans to raise their minimum wages nationally, to $17 and $15, respectively.

Roberts also reports Washingtonians are less likely to quit their jobs than workers across the nation.

Employers in Washington have struggled to find enough workers — but it could have been worse: Washingtonians were far less likely to quit than was the case in nearly any other state, new federal data shows.

Just 82,000 Washington workers, or 2.4% of the state’s workforce, left their jobs in August, according to a report from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That’s a “quit rate” well below the August national average of 2.9% and lower than all but three other states — New York (2.2%), Connecticut (2.2%) and Pennsylvania (2.1%) — and Washington, D.C. (1.7%).

A number of factors are reviewed in the story – COVID, vaccination rates, wages, benefits, and labor regulations among them – but there’s no clear explanation. 

“In the midst of a labor shortage, any worker dissatisfied with their current job has a very good chance of finding something better — better pay, better benefits, better working conditions — if they look around,” Vigdor says. “From this perspective, it would make sense that states with stricter labor market regulations have lower quit rates.”

It’s an interesting read. 

In other economic news, consumer spending was up a tick, but not as much as inflation or incomes. 

American consumers slowed their spending to a gain of just 0.6% in September, a cautionary sign for an economy that remains in the grip of a pandemic and a prolonged bout of high inflation.

At the same time, a key inflation barometer that’s closely followed by the Federal Reserve surged 4.4% last month from a year earlier — the fastest such increase in three decades. And wages, a key component of inflation, jumped 0.8% — twice the August gain and a reflection of the growing ability of workers to compel higher pay from companies that are desperate to fill a near-record number of available jobs. A separate report Friday showed that wages jumped 1.5% in the three months that ended in September, the most on records dating back 20 years.

Tellingly, employers now say inflation is a bigger concern than Covid

Finally, after the disappointing 2% GDP growth in Q3, economists are projecting 5-6% growth in Q4.

We’ll see. Things appear to be very uncertain at the moment.