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Takeaway: Today marks the first week of bona fide soft data in a long time. We'll see if this is the start of a new trend through year-end.

Should We Be Concerned?

The labor data has softened now for two weeks in a row. The first week of weak data (two weeks ago) represented a seasonal mismatch and wasn't anything overly noteworthy. The second week - the most recent week - however, showed a more legitimate soft patch in the data. Normally, we see a surge in claims following black Friday representing the seasonal layoff of retail workers. Then, in the following week we see claims drop sharply. For reference, the average increase in claims from post-Black Friday layoffs over the last six years has been 175,000 (NSA). The subsequent decline in claims has averaged 91,000. That works out to a 52% reduction in the post-black Friday surge. This year, we saw an increase of 147,000 post-black Friday followed by a decline of 48,000, or right around a decline of 1/3 - well below the normal retracement. We'll keep a close eye on the trends into year-end.

Separately, with the Fed finally tapering its bond purchases we think it's important to remind investors of the setup going into the new year. Remember that the labor market has a built in tailwind that strengthens steadily from September through February, peaking in February/March and then reversing, and, ultimately, troughing in August/September. This should be supportive of rising rates through 1Q14. We've shown rate correlations across the Financials over the bulk of 2013 and we would expect that the playbook through the next 2-4 months should mirror that. For more information on how to position in that environment, see our note from 11/22/13 entitled #Rates-Rising: A Current Look at Rate Sensitivity Across Financials.

The Data

Prior to revision, initial jobless claims rose 11k to 379k from 368k WoW, as the prior week's number was revised up by 1k to 369k.

The headline (unrevised) number shows claims were higher by 10k WoW. Meanwhile, the 4-week rolling average of seasonally-adjusted claims rose 13.25k WoW to 342.25k.

The 4-week rolling average of NSA claims, which we consider a more accurate representation of the underlying labor market trend, was -7.7% lower YoY, which is a sequential deterioration versus the previous week's YoY change of -13.0%

INITIAL CLAIMS: A SPEED BUMP IN THE LABOR MARKET PARKING LOT - 1

INITIAL CLAIMS: A SPEED BUMP IN THE LABOR MARKET PARKING LOT - 2

INITIAL CLAIMS: A SPEED BUMP IN THE LABOR MARKET PARKING LOT - 3

INITIAL CLAIMS: A SPEED BUMP IN THE LABOR MARKET PARKING LOT - 4

INITIAL CLAIMS: A SPEED BUMP IN THE LABOR MARKET PARKING LOT - 5

INITIAL CLAIMS: A SPEED BUMP IN THE LABOR MARKET PARKING LOT - 6

INITIAL CLAIMS: A SPEED BUMP IN THE LABOR MARKET PARKING LOT - 7

INITIAL CLAIMS: A SPEED BUMP IN THE LABOR MARKET PARKING LOT - 8

INITIAL CLAIMS: A SPEED BUMP IN THE LABOR MARKET PARKING LOT - 9

INITIAL CLAIMS: A SPEED BUMP IN THE LABOR MARKET PARKING LOT - 10

INITIAL CLAIMS: A SPEED BUMP IN THE LABOR MARKET PARKING LOT - 11

INITIAL CLAIMS: A SPEED BUMP IN THE LABOR MARKET PARKING LOT - 12

INITIAL CLAIMS: A SPEED BUMP IN THE LABOR MARKET PARKING LOT - 13

INITIAL CLAIMS: A SPEED BUMP IN THE LABOR MARKET PARKING LOT - 19

INITIAL CLAIMS: A SPEED BUMP IN THE LABOR MARKET PARKING LOT - 14

Yield Spreads

The 2-10 spread rose 1 basis points WoW to 256 bps. 4Q13TD, the 2-10 spread is averaging 238 bps, which is higher by 4 bps relative to 3Q13.

INITIAL CLAIMS: A SPEED BUMP IN THE LABOR MARKET PARKING LOT - 15

INITIAL CLAIMS: A SPEED BUMP IN THE LABOR MARKET PARKING LOT - 16

Joshua Steiner, CFA

Jonathan Casteleyn, CFA, CMT