US: Jobless Claims

Thu Jan 15 07:30:00 CST 2015

Consensus Consensus Range Actual Previous Revised
New Claims - Level 295K 281K to 325K 316K 294K 297K
4-week Moving Average - Level 298.00K 290.50K 291.25K
New Claims - Change 19K -4K -1K

Jobless claims jumped sharply in the January 10 week, up 19,000 to a 316,000 level that's the highest since September. The 4-week average is up 6,750 to 298,000 which is about even with the month-ago comparison.

Data on continuing claims, which are reported with a 1-week lag, are mixed. Continuing claims fell 51,000 in the January 3 week to 2.424 million but the 4-week average rose 12,000 to 2.415 million in a comparison that is also about even with a month ago.

There are no special factors in today's report though the jump in initial claims could be tied to first-of-the-year volatility, a possibility that may limit the report's impact on today's markets.

Market Consensus Before Announcement
Initial jobless claims fell 4,000 in the January 3 week to 294,000, helping to pull down the 4-week average slightly to 290,500. The average is trending about 10,000 lower than the month-ago comparison which points to steady improvement underway in the labor market. Data on continuing claims, which are reported with a 1-week lag, were mixed. Continuing claims in the December 27 week rose a sizable 101,000 to 2.452 million but the 4-week average fell 17,000 to 2.397 million. This average has been steady around the 2.400 million mark since late November.

New unemployment claims are compiled weekly to show the number of individuals who filed for unemployment insurance for the first time. An increasing (decreasing) trend suggests a deteriorating (improving) labor market. The four-week moving average of new claims smoothes out weekly volatility.

Jobless claims are an easy way to gauge the strength of the job market. The fewer people filing for unemployment
benefits, the more have jobs, and that tells investors a great deal about the economy. Nearly every job comes with
an income that gives a household spending power. Spending greases the wheels of the economy and keeps it
growing, so a stronger job market generates a healthier economy.

There's a downside to it, though. Unemployment claims, and therefore the number of job seekers, can fall to such
a low level that businesses have a tough time finding new workers. They might have to pay overtime wages to
current staff, use higher wages to lure people from other jobs, and in general spend more on labor costs because
of a shortage of workers. This leads to wage inflation, which is bad news for the stock and bond markets. Federal
Reserve officials are always on the look-out for inflationary pressures.

By tracking the number of jobless claims, investors can gain a sense of how tight, or how loose, the job market is. If wage inflation looks threatening, it's a good bet that interest rates will rise, bond and stock prices will fall, and the only investors in a good mood will be the ones who tracked jobless claims and adjusted their portfolios to anticipate these events.

Just remember, the lower the number of unemployment claims, the stronger the job market, and vice versa.