Unemployment Filings Increased Last Week, But The Trend Remains Encouraging

by: James Picerno

Jobless claims increased last week by 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 336,000, but this doesn’t alter the fact that new filings for unemployment benefits have been trending lower in recent months in a convincing manner. This leading index has been telling us that the labor market will probably continue to expand at a moderate pace, which in turn implies that the economy will grow. Nothing in today’s report suggests otherwise, even if some perma-bears will jump on today’s data to argue that a darker future awaits in the near term.

But expecting trouble is still a stretch based on this data set. Indeed the numbers reflect a clear trend of falling claims. The four-week moving average last week again dropped to a new five-year-plus low.

Meanwhile, the unadjusted year-over-year change in new claims continues to fall by a healthy rate: down nearly 11% last week vs. the year-earlier level. That’s a sign, as it has been all along, that the labor market still has positive momentum.

What does this imply for the August employment report that’s scheduled for release on September 6? The obvious thought comes to mind: we’ll see another rise in private payrolls. Granted, the relationship between claims and payrolls isn’t particularly strong on a monthly basis. Even so, the fact that claims so far in August are, on average, lower by 1.2% vs. the previous month—the biggest percentage decline since April—juices the odds a bit that next update on payrolls will deliver another round of modest growth.