More Positive Signs for Jobs

by: The Good News Economist

On Thursday the government's report of jobless claims held on to the big improvement of the prior week and only rose 2,000 to a lower-than-expected level of 439,000. The four-week average of 443,000 is now down more than 15,000 from a month ago and signals solid improvement for November payrolls.

Also reported on Thursday by the Conference Board were leading economic indications that continue to strengthen. Gains now reflect two strong back-to-back 0.5 percent gains for the Board's index of leading economic indicators. A big central positive is the factory work week, strength that is likely to continue given persistent uplift underway in the manufacturing sector.

Philly Fed data has been lagging national data recently -- but not in November. Thursday's report of the November index registers general business conditions jumping from a zero-flat trend to a ballooning 22.5. This indicates very sharp month-to-month growth. New orders also rose more than 15 points to 10.4. Shipments were also up more than 15 points, to 16.8.

And all this is translating into jobs. The region's factory jobs index rose more than 10 points to 13.3.

Other readings confirm strength: unfilled orders rose while delivery times and inventory contraction slowed. Input prices show steep month-to-month pressure at an accelerating rate yet output prices, that is prices manufacturers receive for their finished goods, continue to contract though now only slightly.

This report points to accelerating strength for what is already solid growth for the national manufacturing sector. Interestingly, these results contrast with Monday's weak Empire State report from the New York Fed, a report that had been significantly stronger than Philly's recently. Month-to-month swings in regional data shouldn't cloud what is generally a positive outlook and continued leadership for the nation's manufacturing sector.