Can it be that unemployment is looking up? According to the Department of Labor on Thursday, “the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 445,000, a decrease of 11,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 456,000. The 4-week moving average was 455,750, a decrease of 3,000 from the previous week's revised average of 458,750.”
Jobless claims were 10,000 lower than expected, said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at High Frequency Economics. That made this week’s the lowest weekly claims number since July 10.
However, according to Shepherdson, “that is not enough to call a downshift in the underlying trend . . . we'd need to see a run of sub-440K numbers to convince us there has been a real change. . . . If you want to be bullish, though, you could argue that the drop in claims reflects an easing of the pressure on small firms, now that credit has more or less stopped contracting.”
If unemployment may be edging lower, retail sales are edging higher, according to figures from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), which said that U.S. chain stores sales were up 2.6% in year-over-year comparable-store sales for September. Luxury sales, said ICSC, were strongest, up 6.6%.
Michael Niemira, chief economist and director of research for ICSC, said in a statement: “The performance was somewhat uneven and was negatively impacted by abnormally warm weather, which curbed fall merchandise demand, and lower drug prices, which dragged down the reported drug store performance. The fact that luxury continued to post a strong performance is not surprising given the recent improvement in high-income household consumer confidence.”