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Takeaway: We wouldn't be surprised to see the elusive 2-handle on the seasonally-adjusted initial jobless claims reading by late 1Q14.

U.S. labor market data continues to come up roses as the most recent non-seasonally adjusted initial jobless claims came in 10.5% lower than a year ago. That's a slight improvement vs. the previous week, which saw a 10.1% improvement, and is a bit ahead of the average for the last 12 weeks, which is -8.8%.

INITIAL CLAIMS: COMING UP ROSES - js1

Giving exception to the single anomalous data-point 3 weeks ago (-0.2%), we find the average over the last 12 weeks has been a year-over-year improvement of 9.7%, extraordinary for this point in the cycle. This rate of improvement is understated by the seasonally-adjusted data, which also looks quite good. Based on our analysis of the seasonality distortions shifting from headwind to tailwind from September through February, we think the SA number, with no underlying fundamental improvement, will shift from 333k to around 305-310k.

There is, however, clear underlying fundamental improvement, so we wouldn't be surprised to see a 2-handle on the SA initial jobless claims reading by late 1Q14. For perspective on just how strong that is, historically, since 1975 we've observed 2-handles in 2Q06, 2H99, 4Q88, 3Q78, or less than 5% of the time. Specifically, 93 of the last 2,014 weeks have seen sub-300,000 SA initial claims weekly prints.