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More signs of a robust labor market

May 21, 2021

payroll survey week changes chart

Initial unemployment claims fell by 34,000 last week to a new 14-month low 444,000. This marks the fifth decline in the last six weeks and takes the four-week moving average down to 504,750, a drop of 151,000 from the survey-week tally in April.

Along these same lines, the Philadelphia Fed’s manufacturing employment index for May came in at 19.3, down from 30.8 in the prior month but still among the loftiest readings in the more than five-decade history of the series. The New York Fed’s numbers were similarly elevated earlier this week while the national ISM employment index has spent the entirety of 2021 thus far in the mid-to-high 50s. These numbers strongly suggest that while generous unemployment benefits and COVID fears may be weighing on job growth at the margin, hiring activity is still much stronger than was reflected in the April payroll report. A sizeable acceleration is likely in store when the May data are released in just over two weeks.

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