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Economic Data Deluge

Just like almost every Thursday morning, new jobless claims data has been released. And, as happens rather routinely these days, there are built-in good news and bad news aspects to these weekly numbers. For instance, a headline of 840K Initial Jobless Claims last week represents a drop of 9000 new claims from the previous week, but it is up notably from the 820K expected, and the previous week’s upward revision was a fairly drastic 12,000 from the 837K originally reported.

We are also well off the pace we’d been setting back in July, when we were seeing 1.4 million new jobless claims per week. The all-time high weekly tally, 6.87 million in one week this past April, is thankfully far in the rear view. However, still losing in excess of 800K members of the U.S. labor force per week is no one’s idea of a robust employment situation.

Continuing Claims took another big step down, by nearly a million claims week over week to 10.976 million from the upwardly revised 11.979 million reported the week previous. Recall in early September we were still seeing more than 12 million Americans claiming longer-term unemployment per week. Still, we have a ways to go before we’re at “post-pandemic” levels. As long as the pandemic continues its onslaught, there is virtually no way to bring our economy back to firing on all cylinders — and we saw another 52K new cases of Covid-19 with nearly 1000 new fatalities, just yesterday.

By comparison, today’s 840K weekly total is still well beyond the peak claims data from the 2009 Great Recession, which topped out at 665K for a single week. And if we include Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), we’re looking at upwards of 25 million unemployed members of the domestic workforce. It’s impossible to say what the exact number is; California has stopped reporting its PUA data. All this is to say the U.S. labor market is improving, but too slowly to keep the economy afloat by itself. Cue the relief package from Congress…

Pre-markets are in the green, though the Dow is off its early high prior to the jobless claims data. Where we had seen the Dow +257, now we see +187. The Nasdaq and S&P 500 remain steady around +75 and +20, respectively.

The big news this morning aside from jobless claims is the announcement from IBM IBM, which has announced it will be splitting into two companies: hardware and products, and IT infrastructure services. The services segment currently brings in high revenues but relatively smaller margins; the company is confident in the growth of this business, however — enough to branch out into its own firm. Shares of IBM are up 7% on the news, down a big from the +10% we saw upon the company announcement a short time ago.

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