The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits dropped below expectations last week, indicating ongoing strength in the jobs market. Initial jobless claims fell 10,000 to 204,000 for the week ended January 11, according to a report released by the Labor Department on Thursday. The data contradicts market expectations of a slight increase from last week’s unrevised figure of 214,000 to 216,000.
- Jobless claims fell from 214,000 to 204,000 vs. 216,000 expected for the week ended January 11.
- The monthly average, a less-volatile measure, fell from 224,000 to 216,250.
- Continuing claims fell 37,000 to 1.77 million
The four-week average of jobless claims, which irons out weekly volatility, fell from 224,000 to 216,250. The number of people collecting benefits after an initial week of aid fell 37,000 to 1.77 million, coming down from last week’s peak which was the highest point since April.
Jobless claims data is used to measure the level of layoffs in the US labor market, which appear to remain near record lows. The labor market looks to be in good health entering 2020, positioning itself to support consumer spending and the ongoing period of economic expansion, now in its 11th year. With a preliminary trade agreement reached by the US and China, the climate of uncertainty and risk-aversion in US business investment may retract, and it’s possible that the pressure placed on the manufacturing industry will also be alleviated.
US initial jobless claims -10k last week 204,000 while the 4-wk average -7,750 to 216,250, its lowest since early November 2019.
— Gregory Daco (@GregDaco) January 16, 2020
However, in the meantime, hiring has slowed considerably throughout 2019. December added 145,000 jobs to the economy, while overall, the average monthly growth was 176,000 per month, the slowest rate of job growth since 2011. Manufacturing in particular saw reduced growth, adding 46,000 jobs in 2019 compared to 264,000 the year before. In all sectors, average wage growth slipped on average below 3.0% despite the unemployment level being near 50-year lows of 3.5%.
The hiring slowdown arguably poses the greatest threat to US economic expansion. Having said that, with easing trade tensions, robust consumer spending, cooling but ongoing job growth, and no indication of changing interest rates in the near future, most economists agree that the record-breaking period of expansion is likely safe for the coming year.
Gold prices have faced some slight downward pressure following the joint release of three upbeat reports today. Spot gold last traded at $1,551.15/oz, down -0.06% with a high of $1,558.16/oz and a low of $1,550.32/oz. The use case for gold as a safe haven asset has been reduced by low jobless claims, strong activity in manufacturing, and healthy retail sales.