Jobless claims data show no disruption yet; Apple touts investment in jobs

Initial claims for unemployment insurance of 220,000 in the week ending January 13 underscore the strength of the US job market. With the 4-week moving average decreasing to 244,500, there is no sign on the horizon of disruption to jobs.

The holiday season is a tricky time for the jobless claims data series because of the highly seasonal nature of the dataset. The unadjusted number this past week was 360,020. And it was 403,619 the week before as holiday-only jobs end. But these numbers are roughly in line with what we saw a year ago and the adjusted average figure of 244,500 is just a smidgen lower than the 246,250 figure a year ago.

Jobless claims 2018 01 13

Nothing in the data suggests that firms are laying off more workers now. In fact, anecdotal evidence points to just the opposite. For example, Apple responded to the recently enacted mandatory overseas cash tax provision for US-based firms by stating that it would pay $38 billion in taxes, but, at the same time, plan capital expenditures of $30 billion in the U.S. over the next five years. Apple claim this will create 20,000 new jobs. Apple CEO Tim Cook touted the announcement by adding that, “we are focusing our investments in areas where we can have a direct impact on job creation and job preparedness.”

Based on historical precedent, we should expect job gains in future months to be more limited. Nevertheless, we should also expect the unemployment level to creep down, likely pushing through the 4.0% threshold sometime this spring or summer. With the employment picture tightening further still, the Fed will likely stick to its current outlook of three rate hikes for 2018, with a fourth still possible

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