The guesstimates have all the accuracy of a coin flip.
In an essay by Pimco's Tony Crescenzi, using the old and worn out title "To QE or Not to QE", which asks just that question, one of the lines of analysis focuses on the traditional conventional wisdom relationship between the jobless rate and initial claims for unemployment insurance. Tony says that this correlation leads him to believe that the unemployment rate is lower than where it official stands because, "Progress has been made, for example, on the employment front, with the six-month moving average for private payroll gains increasing to 214,000 per month in the six months ended in February 2012 from 160,000 per month in the 12 months prior. Importantly, weekly filings for initial jobless claims have fallen to a four-year low, fully 100k below year-ago levels and in territory consistent with a further decline in the unemployment rate (see Figure 1)." So far so good, and indeed if one very simplistically tracks merely the unemployment rate to jobless claims, the picture does indeed seem rosier than it currently is. The problem however, is that as always happens in this case, initial claims reflect only a discrete component of the true unemployment situation in the New Normal, which more than anything is characterized by one specific feature: the avalanche like implosion of the labor force, and the departure of millions of people, almost monthly from the labor pool, noted so very often on these pages, and recently forcing even Goldman and JP Morgan to ask whether Okun's law is not in fact broken precisely because of this. As such there is one other correlation that in our humble opinion should be tracked far more closely when trying to anticipate the unemployment rate: that of the unemployment rate but not just to initial claims, but rather to initial and continuing claims, as well as extended benefits and EUCs, which provide a far better picture of those who are truly falling out of the labor pool. And as the chart below shows, when using that far more accurate New Normal correlation, the picture is decided worse. In fact, instead of a sub-7% implied unemployment rate, the true implied unemployment rate is just over 12.5.
Jobless claims still are good news but their newest news is not so good news. The progress on claims falling is less than we thought and the current momentum is diminished.
The big broad downtrend is still there but the recent downtrend which saw the pace of claims falling faster has had its wings clipped. Too soon to say if this is a key development or not. But it could drive optimists to drink.
Following last Thursday's weekly claims release we said "Initial Claims Beat Expectations, To Miss Next Week Following Revision" and sure enough, last week's 348K beat of 350K expectations has been revised wildly higher, to 364K, meaning the initial beat was not only a miss, it was wide by a mile relative to the 350K preliminary expectation. But robots do not care - all they care is the current print, which however this time also missed, printing at 359K on expectations of a 350K number. This is the first 4 week increase in the 4 week SMA since September as the weather impact of the record warm winter starts to fade away, as explained yesterday. Same gimmicks in the continuing claims number too which like everything out of the BLS is so meaningless for concurrent data, we will probably just wait until the next week revision to get a sense of what is truly happening. More troubling is that 78K people fell of extended and EUC claims as more and more drop out of the workforce. This means the unemployment rate just dropped courtesy of even more people giving up on finding work. Thank heavens for BLS math. In other news, the final Q4 GDP revision came unchanged at 3.0%, in line with expectations. There were no major changes to the components, however Personal consumption did decline modestly from the second revision's 1.52% to 1.47%. It also appears that the government has been consistently taking away less and less from "growth", detracting 0.93%, 0.89% and 0.84% with every consecutive revision. Overall, a wash, meaning March is about to close with about with 17 misses out of 19 key economic indicators.
Same old, same old from the BLS: with initial claims expected to print at 350K, we get a number that is just better, or 348K - supposedly the best since February 2008, however one which will be revised to about 351K next week, hence a miss, in line with the perpetual +3K upward statistical bias each and every week demonstrated by the BLS, which is no longer even funny. To be sure, last week's 351K was just raised to 353K, just so that headlines can announce a 5K drop in claims week over week. Continuing claims printed at 3.352MM, down from an upward revised 3.361MM. And yes, initial claims are lowest since February 2008... Until one adds the continuing claims, EUCs and Extended Claims as seen in the chart below. The 99 week cliff saw a total of 18K drop from total rolls: these are now 1MM lower compared to a year ago.
After deconstructing the labor report for signs of false positives, Michael Cembalest of JPMorgan, sees muddle-through data in the US as sustaining a below trend growth rate - noting his belief that the US economy would not withstand a withdrawal of stimulus (read promise of liqudity to come) right now. While not as ebulient as many on the street, the JPM CIO sees a US job market that is gradually getting better - as is spending. However, what keeps him up at night is the budget deficit (as we noted very specifically last night). Critically, jobless claims have just crossed a threshold that in the past has signaled risk-on is primed to pay-off as the business cycle becomes self-sustaining but at the same time, the budget deficit is at massively 'different-this-time' levels. As he notes: "But as Big Bird used to say, one of these things is not like the other: the US primary budget deficit which supports this recovery is a bigger now", and so the US economy had better improve markedly in order to merely 'pay-the-freight'. "I lose a lot of sleep over this, but I don’t know a lot of other people that do."
Initial claims print +362K, missing consensus of 352K, and up from a upward revised, (of course) 354K. As a reminder, last week's print was expected to be 355K, instead coming at 351K spiking the market far higher. Needless to say, the response would have been far more muted had the number come at its true final print of virtually on top of expectations, but who cares anymore - everyone appears to enjoy lying and being lied to. That this miss comes ahead of a critical NFP print will likely have some scratching their heads especially since this is the first time we have seen three consecutive weeks of rises since August 2010. Also keep in mind next week, today's 362K will be upward revised to 365K. Hence the immediate if not sooner need for more, more, more QE. Continuing claims also missed at 3416K vs exp. of 3400K, and rising from an upwardly revised 3406K. Finally, EUCs and Extended benefits rose by 27K. Finally, when it comes to comparing before and after, we think it always makes sense to see the full picture, not just initial claims, and account for continuing and extended. Here is what it looks like for all those who tell us that the labor situation is as good as it was in 2008.
A rather uneventful initial claims report which came in line with the election year expectations, beating consensus of +355K modestly, at 351K, which is where it was last week, except for the traditional 100% of the time, upward revision to last week's data, which was pushed higher from 351K to 353K, and in turn which will force algos to read the news as a decline in claims. Today's number gets some additional scrutiny as it comes in the NFP survey week. Continuing claims same deal: the number came a little better than expectations of 3418K at 3402K, was a deterioration compared to the unrevised last week number of 3392K but an improvement to the revised # which was 3404K. On the other hand, people at the trailing end of the cliff declined, as those on EUCs and Extended benefits dropped by 16K in the week ended February 11. As a result, people collecting extended benefits are now 1.13 million less than a year ago, and no longer collect direct BLS benefits. As for disability that's a different matter. Finally, none of this impacts America's young workers, who as noted yesterday, have an employment rate of 54%.
Snooze of an update from the BLS, which reported that this week's initial claims printed at 351K, slightly better than expected at 355K, but offset by the now perpetual (thus statistically impossible) upward revision in prior week claims, which increased from 348K to 351K, so unchanged week over week. Next week this 351K will be revised to 354K so on top of expectations. That this is driven primarily by ongoing abnormally hot weather (remember the lamentations over last year's cold winter and how it was impacting data adversely - odd how we continue to hear nothing about the opposite phenomenon) is largely ignored. Instead what we will hear is how claims printed at the lowest in 4 years (chart 1). And yet we will hear nothing about how when one adds initial claims to continuing claims to extended benefits, we are just a little bit higher than 4 years ago (chart 2).
The onslaught of 'favorable' jobs numbers continues with the latest initial claims printing at 348K, down from an upward revised 361K, on expectations of a rise to 365K. This was the lowest number since March 2008. As a reminder, the abnormally warm January and February weather as discussed previously by David Rosenberg is a key reason in the ongoing favorable impression of the economy that this data skew creates. Granted the self-delusion of employers is just as palpable as that of market participants: claims went from sub 400K in the days before Lehman to nearly 600K in the weeks after. Continuing claims printed at 3.426MM down from 3.526MM, on expectations of 3.495K. Those seeing the 99-week expire increased as 23K people dropped out of EUCs and Extended Claims. Expect to see this "favorable" trend reverse within weeks, as the groundwork for more easing has to be set (more on that shortly). Elsewhere, the headline PPI came below expectations of 0.4%, printing at 0.1%, up from -0.1% previously, while Core PPI, paradoxically, beat this time, rising from 0.3% to 0.4%, on consensus of a decline to 0.2%. Finally Housing Starts was a meaningless and noisy 699K on expectations of 675K, where it has been crawling along the bottom for years. Permits Missed Expectations of 680K coming at 676K.
Just in case the BLS seasonal adjustment needed a little confirmation prodding, here comes the BLS with its weekly initial claims number which at 358K (next week to be revised to over 360K), was a pleasant beat of expectations of 370K, down from an upward revised 373K the prior week. Offsetting this was an increase in continuing claims by 64K from 3437K to 3515K, up from an upward revised 3451K. According to Bloomberg's Joseph Brusuelas the underlying trend “supports modest improvement in labor market." Elsewhere, the net addition to EUCs and Extended benefits was a total of +19k. What this means is that the layoff wave of the temp worker hiring binge for the holiday season, is now ending. As for actual full time job additions, we will have to wait and see the "unadjusted" BLS data for that.
Initial Claims Print Near Expectations, To Be Revised Adversely Next Week; Productivity Misses, Labor Costs IncreaseSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/02/2012 09:39 -0400
American Airlines laying off tens of thousands? It's all good for the BLS, which just announced that 367K initial unemployment claims were filed in the past week, a number which following next week's upward revision will be just in line with expectations of 371K. As expected, the bullish bias continues with last week's 377K claims number getting revised higher to 379K. Continuing claims will also be revised higher from 3437K to something 20-80K higher next week, even as expectations of 3535K appear high. The weekly move was substantial dropping by 130K from 3567K. Which means that a huge swath of people moved from Continuing Claims to EUC 2008s, a number which sure enough swelled by 100K in the past week. Those on Extended Benefits declined by 57K as the tail end of the 99-week cliff relentlessly spits out all those who can't find a job after 2 years. And in other labor news, Q1 GDP will likely see more cuts after nonfarm productivity came at 0.7% on expectations of 0.8%, and the previous number was revised lower from 2.3% to 1.9%. Finally labor costs rose from an upward revised -2.1% to 1.2%, higher than expectations of 0.8%. Overall nothing material today, as all focus on tomorrow's NFP, which as noted here previously, has a big chance of surprising to the downside.
And so the volatility continues: initial claims go from 402K to an upward revised 356K, to 377K, on expectations of 370K. The swings in this data series are getting as big as those in the stock market on those rare occasions when reality sets in. The miss is in line with the Fed perceived weakness in the economy. Continuing claims also missed coming at 3554K up from an upward revised 3466K, higher than expectations of 3500K. A whopping 146K dropped out of extended claims: in fact, in the past year the unemployed collecting post 6 month benefits either EUCs or Extended Benefits have plunged from 4.6 million to 3.4 million. As for last week's massive drop of nearly 50K initial claims, we learn that somehow it was New York to thank for this, with 27.7K less claims than the week before due to "Fewer layoffs in the transportation, educational, and construction industries." How about layoffs in the financial services industry, and also how much do those jobs pay vs "transportation, educational and construction" jobs? What however does not justify the Fed's ZIRP through 2015 or so, is the Durable Goods number which came at 3.0%, on expectations of 2.0%, down from an upward revised 4.3%. The bulk of this was in airplane orders thanks to Boeing as noted previously. However what was surprising is that Durable Goods ex transportation came in at a blistering 2.1% on Exp of 0.9%, and Capital Goods Orders ex Non-Def and Aircraft which rose 2.9% on expectations of 1.0%. However since the Fed has made it clear it will boost its balance sheet, and as of today the implied increase is over $800 billion, at the smallest whiff of trouble, the risk bubble is in full on mode as bad news is good news, and good news is better news.
Riskier assets advanced today, as market participants reacted to yesterday’s FOMC statement, as well as reports that Greece is making progress in talks for a debt-swap deal. However despite a solid performance by EU stocks, German Bunds remain in positive territory on the back of reports that the ECB has ruled out taking voluntary losses on its Greek bond holdings but is now debating how it would handle any forced losses and whether to explore legal options to avoid such a hit according to sources. As such, should talks between private creditors and other governing bodies stall again, there is a risk that Greece may not be able to meet its looming financial obligations. Of note, Portuguese/German government bond yield spreads continued to widen today, especially in the shorter end of the curve.
Economic Data Flood Summary: Claims, Housing Noisy, CPI May Return "Disinflation" Talk At FOMC MeetingSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/19/2012 09:47 -0400
First, Initial Claims - the new yoyo.Initial claims drop from revised 402K (as expected) in last week, to 352K this week, 50K swing in one week, on expectations of 384K. All in the seasonal adjustment, which tries to compensate for the 124K drop in Non Seasonally Adjusted claims. Fired bankers and everyone else no longer registers to the B(L)S. This number was below the lowest Wall Street estimate of 363K. Continuing claims: 3.432MM, below expectations of 3.590MM, previous revised naturally higher from 3.628MM to 3.647MM. The reason? People on EUC and Extended benefits in last week: +105,000. More and more people move away from 6 month support to extended 99 week cliff. Housing Starts and Permits: Largely irrelevant, as crawling at a bottom, but starts at 657K, below expectations of 680K, and down from 685K previously; Permits in line with expectations at 679K, down from 680K before. Fed “clearly concerned with the return of disinflation;” watch for “talk of further central bank action to support the economy” at next week’s FOMC meeting, says Brusuelas