The U.S. Job Market Is Spoiling

Includes: KFY, MAN, MWW, RHI
by: Markos Kaminis

The trend of Jobless Claims illustrates a sort of spoiling. After heading toward recovery, this lagging economy full of pitfalls and drags, is being pulled down once more. And the trend in jobless claims, now stuck at a point neither here nor there, seems set to spoil as it is left out past expiration.

Weekly Jobless Claims improved by 6,000 in the week ending June 23, but the prior week figure was revised higher by 5,000. The result was also worse than the consensus of economists' views, though only by 1,000. While the four-week moving average improved slightly by 750, it has solidified at a level higher than in recent months, at 386,750.

This, and the stagnant unemployment rate, seem to say that neither small businesses, which employ the majority of Americans, nor the nation's largest employers, which include Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT), International Business Machines (NYSE: IBM), McDonald's (NYSE: MCD), Target (NYSE: TGT), Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ), Kroger (NYSE: KR), United Parcel Service (NYSE: UPS), General Electric (NYSE: GE), Pepsico (NYSE: PEP) and Sears (NASDAQ: SHLD) are making net additions. If these companies are adding significant numbers of employees today, they're not in America. And some, like Sears, are making significant reductions instead. One also wonders what happens to all those Americans working at Wal-Mart and Target as (NASDAQ: AMZN), eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY) and Wal-Mart online steal an increasing portion of market share. Do they get jobs at UPS and FedEx (NYSE: FDX) to deliver an increasing number of packages?

The insured unemployment rate held steady at 2.6% in the week ending June 16, and the total number of insured unemployed fell by 15,000, to 3,296,000. The total number of Americans receiving a benefit of some sort, including through the extension program, rose 71,724 to 5.89 million. We remind our loyal readers that this figure has been improving over recent months by attrition as much as economic growth. We expect that the great number of long-term unemployed Americans are simply falling off the unemployment cliff when their benefits run out.

The shares of employment service leaders like Robert Half International (NYSE: RHI), Korn Ferry International (NYSE: KFY), Monster Worldwide (NYSE: MWW) and Manpower (NYSE: MAN) are mixed on what would seem an unchanged data point. To that I say, unchanged is synonymous with stagnant, which will later spoil.

The states report:

The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending June 9 were in Alaska (4.2), Puerto Rico (3.8), Pennsylvania (3.6), California (3.4), New Jersey (3.3), Connecticut (3.2), Illinois (3.1), Oregon (3.1), Nevada (2.9), Rhode Island (2.9), and the Virgin Islands (2.9).

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending June 16 were in Pennsylvania (+4,656), New Jersey (+3,907), Maryland (+2,624), Florida (+2,528), and Puerto Rico (+1,533), while the largest decreases were in California (-8,016), New York (-3,018), Georgia (-2,160), Illinois (-1,996), and Missouri (-1,339).

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.