Weekly jobless claims data have been released by the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics and may offer at least some support for a very weak equity market this morning. Those claims came in at 340,000, versus a Bloomberg and Dow Jones consensus of 345,000 for the week. The prior week’s report was revised higher to 363,000 from 360,000. That is a positive development, but the markets are so soft overseas that it is hard to get excited about a rally on a one-week number.
Keep in mind that the latest unemployment rate came in at 7.5% for April. And the four-week average fell by only 500 to 339,500.
Where investors will see a handy difference is in the continuing jobless claims, reported with a one-week lag. This figure fell by a sharp 112,000 to 2,912,000, and this matters because this is what we continually refer to as the army of the unemployed. If that can keep shrinking, the unemployment rate will keep falling. The question is how many of these long-term unemployed are getting jobs and how many are rolling into other programs.
We would point out that this week we featured the states with the highest number of workers on disability, which is a new status many out-of-work people are using to maintain benefit payments for long after the unemployment benefits expire.
S&P futures are still down 15 points at 1,640, and DJIA futures are still down 114 points at 15,206.