Labor is Slowing, but Only Modestly
The strength of the labor market has cooled off modestly. We key off the year-over-year rate of change in rolling NSA (non-seasonally adjusted) initial jobless claims. This week the data was better by 5.5% vs the same period last year. However, if you compare that with the preceding three weeks of data, it reflects a modest deceleration. The last four prints have been: -8.5%, -7.9%, -7.2% and -5.5%. It's important to remind investors that initial claims tend to hit a frictional resistance around 300k. As such, the closer we get to 300k the more we'd expect the rate of improvement to converge toward zero. As such, it's not surprising that the rate of improvement is slowing, but we're more interested in the short-term acceleration/deceleration relative to the trendline rate of change. On that basis, the last four weeks represent a bit more of a slowdown than what the trendline would suggest. To be clear, we're not overly concerned here, but in light of the weak ISM print and the elevated overseas concerns it's important to keep tabs on whether we're in the early days of a real slow down or just a short, counter-trend speedbump.
Prior to revision, initial jobless claims fell 17k to 331k from 348k WoW, as the prior week's number was revised up by 3k to 351k.
The headline (unrevised) number shows claims were lower by 20k WoW. Meanwhile, the 4-week rolling average of seasonally-adjusted claims rose 0.75k WoW to 333.25k.
The 4-week rolling average of NSA claims, which we consider a more accurate representation of the underlying labor market trend, was -5.5% lower YoY, which is a sequential deterioration versus the previous week's YoY change of -7.2%
The 2-10 spread rose 3 basis points WoW to 235 bps. 1Q14TD, the 2-10 spread is averaging 244 bps, which is higher by 4 bps relative to 4Q13.
Joshua Steiner, CFA
Jonathan Casteleyn, CFA, CMT