Gold prices were largely unaffected by the recent report from the U.S. Labor Department which revealed an increase in new employment benefits claims and a decrease in continuing claims.
- New claims rose by 5,000.
- Existing claims decreased by 5,000 to hit a 45 year low.
- Hurricane season may have impacted the new claims figures.
- The labor market is likely undergoing a shortage of skilled workers.
New weekly jobless claims have risen to 215,000, up 5,000 from last week’s figure of 210,000. Gold futures retained early-morning gains and are trading at $1,232, up 0.1%.
Despite the recent rise of 5,000 claims, the number of Americans receiving unemployment benefit is actually the lowest in 45 years based on the number of continuing claims, perhaps due to tightening labor market conditions.
Continuing claims are down 5,000 from last week’s revised level and as of the week ending October 13 now stand at 1,636,000, the lowest level since 1973. This trend is emphasized by data seen in the four-week moving average for new claims which remains unchanged.
Long term moving averages can often be a more trustworthy indicator due to the relative lack of short-term volatility seen in weekly charts. The four-week moving average for continuing claims decreased by 6,740 to 1,646,500, also a 45 year low.
The Current Economy
According to a Reuters poll, economists had predicted claims rising to 214,000, partially influenced by the continuing trend for claims in areas affected by the recent hurricane season like South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, and Georgia where claims have increased due to disruption in local jobs and infrastructure.
Hurricane Michael hit Florida on October 10, and October 14-20 was the first complete period open for workers to file claims.
The labor market is at near or full employment with a 49 year low of unemployment at 3.7%. The number of available job openings in the US labor market is a record 7.14 million, supporting data from the recent report on the Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index which pointed to a shortage of skilled workers in the market.
The Federal Reserve stated “employers throughout the country continued to report tight labor markets and difficulties finding qualified workers.”
Effect on Markets
Jobs data can often inform traders on US monetary policy set out by the US Federal Open Market Committee and the Federal Reserve. A strong economy and tightening labor market conditions supports the idea that the Fed will go ahead with another rate hike in 2018 as planned.
The Fed raised rates for the third time this year in September and hinted that their monetary stance may become more aggressive, with accommodative interest rates being favored over neutral.