Initial claims for unemployment insurance ended in a sour tone in 2021, and rose more than expected at a time when the omicron variant was spreading rapidly through the United States, the Ministry of Labor reported on Thursday.
Unemployment claims totaled 207,000 for the week ending 1 January, slightly higher than the forecast of 195,000 and up 7,000 from the previous period.
Nevertheless, recent data show that claims are still well-established around a level even lower than before the Covid-1[ads1]9 pandemic, when claims averaged around 215,000. The four-week moving average, which represents weekly volatility in the numbers, increased to 204,500 for the current period
Continued claims that go one week behind the headline figure also rose, climbing to 1.75 million, for an increase of 36,000.
In other economic news, the US trade imbalance for goods and services jumped to $ 80.2 billion in November, up from $ 67.2 billion in October, but below the Dow Jones estimate of $ 81.5 billion. The total brought the trade deficit close to September’s record of 81.4 billion dollars as the deficit increased with China, the EU and Canada.
However, the labor market is the big focus this week, as investors are waiting for the closely monitored wage report that the Ministry of Labor will publish on Friday. Economists expect to see a gain of 422,000 for December, after November’s disappointing 210,000.
Thursday’s injury report will not fit into that number, and will probably appear more when the figures for January are collected.
“The underlying trend in claims is downward, but the rate of fall in October and early November could not be maintained,” wrote Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. “The fundamentals have not changed; the labor market is still extremely tight, and companies will not let employees go unless they have no other choice. It is possible that an extended Omicron wave will change that, but the first effect is likely to be to make companies even more concerned with retaining people, such as absences due to Covid rockets. “
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