Source: Department of Labor
New claims for unemployment insurance were a bit higher than expected last week, falling to 793,000 from an upwardly revised 812,000 in the prior period. This still marks the third decline in the last four weeks and takes the cumulative drop since mid-January to 134,000. The four-week moving average moved lower by 33,500, a slide that would be considered enormous under more normal circumstances. Prior to 2020, in fact, there were only a half dozen cases historically in which the four-week average moved this much in a single week.
So while much of the focus continues to be on the continued high level of claims – this morning’s print was well above the pre-COVID peak – there is a clear trend of improvement here that, not coincidentally, mirrors the fade in the new infection rate. The U.S. has now logged four consecutive days with fewer than 100,000 new cases, the best stretch since early November, and state and local government restrictions are slowly being eased as a result (note, as an example, Governor Cuomo’s statement yesterday indicating that fans will be allowed to attend sporting events in New York state by the end of this month). The statistical models still suggest that herd immunity will be reached in the U.S. by the early summer, but it is a safe bet that the economy will have already started to react to the pandemic’s endgame by then.
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