US Unemployment Down from 2-Year High

New unemployment applications in the United States fell last week after soaring to new heights for nearly two years.  Analysts advise this points to growing stability in the labor market that should continue to support better consumer spending and the economy, overall. 

Specifically, jobless claims fell by 18,000, marking a seasonally adjusted 234,000 during the week leading up to December 14.  In early December, new claims rose to 252,000, which was the highest level in nearly two years.  Thus, the new measure asserts that time has passed.  

One of the most interesting aspects to this data is that the biggest increases (or unadjusted claims) from two weeks also showed the biggest drop last week.  The numbers fell the most dramatically in New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Minnesota.  

The only exception to this is California.

Of course, jobless claims fluctuate during the 10-or-so-weeks of the holiday season; and we are in a particularly long time frame this year.  Indeed, the government’s seasonal adjustments have been tough to estimate this year.

While seasonal adjustments are a little harder to come by, the monthly average tends to be a little more stable. This year, these numbers grew by roughly 1,500 to 225,000. 

Furthermore, the number of people who are already collecting unemployment benefits—which is known as continuing claims—grew by 51,000 to 1.72 million. 

Although many factor orders in the mid-Atlantic region showed signs of slowing, manufacturing firms received more orders and increased shipments. That, of course, means more hours for workers.  Capital expenditure outlook across the next six months, then, also appears on the rise, providing at least a little relief from the mounting tensions of the US-China trade way; now onto month 17. 

It is, perhaps, best to note that the US labor market is the strongest it has been in a few decades.  Hiring may be slower than it was last year but incomes are on the rise—by about 3 percent per year with the four-week moving average of claims growing only 4,250 between November and December.  Also, the unemployment rate—at about 3.5 percent—has not been this low in roughly fifty years.