Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jobless claims, Housing starts, Philly Fed

- by New Deal democrat

The economic news this week has been relentlessly better, and today's news continues the streak.

Jobless claims, at 545,000, can't exactly be called "good," but it is the first time, leaving aside the July anomaly compromised by auto plant closures, that claims have been under 550,000. The 4-week moving average went down to 563,000, again the lowest save one week in July.

In terms of the extent to which this will be a "jobless recovery," the very slow decline in the 4 week average is inconsistent with a positive number, or even a number better than -100,000, when September employment is reported (the model by Michael Duecker applying Prof. Hamilton's research doesn't look like it's going to hold up so well, at least this month).

Housing starts and permits were also up. Since housing is the leading indicator of the consumer economy, its continued improvement is a welcome sign. As I pointed out a couple of weeks ago, even in the Great Depression housing bottomed in 1933 and then improved. ~600,000 permits and starts isn't very strong, but they are up over 100,000 from the April low.

Finally, the Philly Fed September reading of 14.1, up from 4.2 in August, is continued expansion and improvement. The only fly in the ointment there is that new orders, while positive, were slightly down from last month. The Philly Fed appears to confirm the Empire State survey and suggests that the ISM manufacturing index may well breach the 54 level when it is reported in 2 weeks.

In short, all of the data this week serves to confirm that the Recovery is underway. How well and how soon it will translate into jobs is still very much in question.