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Jobless Claims Numbers Disappoint, Bounce Off Lows

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Thursday, September 23, 2021

Markets are up again, buying the dip that still exists from Monday’s trading activity. Currently, the Dow is +240 points, the S&P 500 +25 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq +82 points. Losses yesterday were basically cut in half from the -2% sell-off we saw at the start of the week. Dare we expect we finish the week in the green after such an awful start? In any case, that -5% pruning on the major indexes looks to have been evaded yet again in 2021.

Initial Jobless Claims came in notably higher than expectations: 351K was a big increase from the 320K expected, as well as the upwardly revised 335K reported for the previous week. This is the second-straight month of higher new jobless claims; we are back to levels not seen since mid-August. (The week of Labor Day — a shortened week — looks to have provided our cycle low at 312K.)

Continuing Claims also bounced northward, although this metric still looks down from last week’s report: 2.845 million is a tad lower than last week’s 2.85 million originally reported. The previous week’s downwardly revised 2.714 million is currently our post-Covid low (if we can yet call it “post-Covid”; the Delta variant continues to assert itself in certain regions of our labor force), but today’s estimate on longer-term jobless claims had been for a new low 2.65 million.

We won’t see our next monthly jobs reports until two weeks from now, even though a week from tomorrow is October 1st. Much rests on the Employment Situation in terms of the direction our economy faces, which in turn directly affects the stock market. But coming off a quite disappointing August employment figure and now with weekly jobless claims bouncing off lows, we’ll continue to keep a close eye on labor forcer developments.

After the market opens for regular session trading today, we’ll see September’s Markit PMI prints for both Manufacturing and Services. Manufacturing is expected to take a small step forward — 61.7 estimated versus 61.1 reported the previous month — while Services are anticipated at 54.9, down a half-point from August’s 55.1. In either case, a 50-level is the balance between growth and contraction, so we’re well above that level.

Pre-market indexes have slipped from where they were ahead of new jobless claims numbers, but are still comfortably positive a half-hour prior to the opening bell. The Dow has slipped to +225 points, the S&P +20 the Nasdaq +35. Perhaps these numbers will slide further and take another steps down after yesterday’s bargain shopping. But for now, even our “disappointing” report headlines are still pretty strong, historically speaking.

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