These days you can’t read an economic report, especially a jobs report, without a calendar.
Today’s report on initial claims for unemployment — a weekly number for the week ended July 4–showed that new claims for unemployment continued their slow drop. The total of 1.31 million for the week in regular state unemployment programs was down 99,000 from the prior week. For that same week, states reported 1.04 million initial claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the federal program that extends unemployment benefits to those not typically eligible such the self-employed. The drop in new claims in the regular state system was the biggest in a month. But the number is still double the highest weekly level during the Great Recession.
The total number of continuing claim in regular state unemployment programs also dropped to 18.1 million. But the total number including continuing claims from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program rose to 32.9 million.
Both of these numbers need a caveat. The rise in the total continuing claim number is likely to reflect an over count of continued claims from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. And the drop in the continued claims report from regular state program is likely to overstate the current improvement in the economy because it lags the initial claims report by a week. The continuing claims report covers the week ended June 27 (not July 4) so it misses some of the late June re-closing of some state economies.
And that brings up the last bit on context that’s important in interpreting these numbers. The most recent reports on layoffs at companies argues that the improvement in the initial claims number is itself a lagging report. Today Bloomberg has reported the Wells Fargo will cut thousands of jobs in the remaining part of 2020. And on Monday United Airlines told half its workforce that their jobs are at risk after government aid to airlines expires at the end of September.
Economists, I’ll grant you, are having a tough time forecasting the course of this economy because the nature of this crisis is unique–we’ve got a demand recession created by the coronavirus pandemic–but Bloomberg Economics is now projecting that payrolls will shrink by 1 million in July after May and June gains totaling 7.5 million. (Do remember that the bulk of those gains came as a surprise to economists.)
Stocks continued their recent patterns today with technology continuing to move up–the NASDAQ Composite closed up 0.53% to a new record–while re-opening dependent sectors and the market as a whole fell. The Standard & Poor’s 500 was down 0.56% at the close, the Dow was off 1.39%, and the Russell 2000 small cap index, finished down 1.87%.
Emerging markets did continue to gain with the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM) up 0.34% on the day. But momentum was flagging with the iShares MSCI Brazil ETF (EWZ), a recent strong performer on the China rally, down 0.75% for the session and the iShares MSCI Mexico ETF off 1.56%.