“Worker filings for unemployment benefits dropped to 712,000 last week, nearing their lowest level since the pandemic fueled a surge in layoffs last March,” WSJ writes.
Why It Matters: Jobless claims have fallen pretty noticeably in the last few weeks, and “last week’s seasonally adjusted total was about 200,000 below an early January peak.” It’s hard to say — things are a bit unclear — and the ongoing impact of Covid-19 still weighs heavy, but we could be on a path to a return here.
- The lowest weekly jobless claims mark, since the pandemic started, was 711,000 in November.
- In 2019, the weekly average was roughly 218,000 and the pre-pandemic high was 695,000.
Other Details Suggesting Recovery:
- We saw employers add 379,000 jobs in February.
- Government stimulus boosted household income and spending to start the year, and there looks to be more on the way.
- “According to the jobs site Indeed, the number of job postings on March 5 was 6.7% above their pre-pandemic level.”
“Americans extracted more cash from their homes through cash-out refinancings in 2020 than in any year since the financial crisis,” WSJ writes.
- In 2020, U.S. homeowners grabbed around $153 billion in home equity. It’s a 42% improvement from 2019 and the most since 2007, according to Freddie Mac.
- Lenders churned out a record number of mortgages in 2020, “fueled by about $2.8 trillion in refis, according to mortgage data firm Black Knight Inc.”
Why It Matters: Whether it was cushioning themselves against tumultuous economic conditions or building/redecorating, consumers cashed in the opportunity in waves. Home prices generally tend to fall during recessions, but Covid-19 has had the opposite effect. They’re booming.
The Outlook: The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage dropped below 3% for the first time in 2020, making refinancing appealing. But those rates are already starting to tick back up, so we have to watch closely where it goes.