“Filings for unemployment benefits held nearly steady last week, a sign layoffs remain elevated amid other signs of slow labor-market improvement,” WSJ writes.
The Rub: Unemployment claims, which serve as a proxy for layoffs, was 745,000 for the week ending February 27, a slight increase from a revised 736,000.
- The four-week moving average, which accounts for volatility in claims, dropped to its lowest level since early December.
- It’s still higher than the pre-pandemic peak of 695,000, but a noticeable easing since the start of the year when levels were around 900,000.
Balancing Hope With Caution: According to Moody’s Analytics economist Ryan Sweet, “the overall outlook is improving, as virus cases decline and vaccines are more widely distributed.”
- States such as New York and Texas are also easing restrictions, the latter announcing Tuesday it would end a statewide mask mandate.
The Bottom Line: “There are several signs the recovery could be picking up after a winter lull. Economists expect February’s employment report, to be released on Friday, to show modest job gains.”
- January’s increase in household income from the most recent round of stimulus could be telling us the U.S. is primed for a strong rebound later this year.
- Hiring is also improving in some areas, “with the number of help-wanted ads returning to pre-pandemic levels.”