205,000 workers filed initial claims for unemployment benefits last week. That was the same as in the prior week. And not far off the five-decade low recorded earlier in December.
Which is good news considering the threat of the Omicron Variant to the economy.
Except that I doubt the figure means much. This close to Christmas employers won’t fire workers unless they absolutely, positively have to. And workers aren’t quitting their jobs in time to put holiday spending plans in jeopardy.
My read is that everyone is trying to hold on for the Christmas season–on employment, on spending, on travel plans–no matter the surge in virus infections. After the holidays, it’s likely to be a different story with businesses letting go of seasonal workers at an even faster pace than usual and with a lot of companies that toughed it out in hopes of a rise in sales over the holiday saying that they can’t afford the damage to their bottom line in a slower January and February.
In other words, we’re going to need some data from January and February before we can do more than guess at the effects of the fourth wave of infections on the U.S. economy.
And in a report from another source but that is directly related to the jobs situation, the Bureau of Economic Analysis released the PCE (Personal Consumption Expenditures Index) for inflation. The index rose at an alluring rate of 5.7% in November. The PCE is the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation measure. It doesn’t exactly track the more widely reported Consumer Price Index, which showed inflation gaining at a 6.8% annual rate in November.