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US Initial Claims Dip: Future Still Under Debate

As the US Congress and the White House continue to spar – or currently refuse to spar –  on the future of the enhanced jobless claims program, initial claims fell by 228,000 in the August 8 week to a level of 963,000. That level was well below expectations and the first reading below one million since the COVID crisis began.

The data over the last two weeks suggest that the end of the enhanced Federal unemployment program on July 31 may be deterring some new filings. The four-week moving average for initial claims fell by 86,250 to 1.253 million in the current week and will decline further as initial claims gains in mid-July roll out of the four-week window.

Unadjusted claims fell by 156,453 in the current week after a decrease of 218,736 in the previous week. Seasonal adjustment factors expected small increase, so the seasonally adjusted figure fell sharply. There were unadjusted declines in several states, including Florida, Texas, and California, states that have seen recent upticks in COVID-19 cases.

The Labor Department reported that 488,622 workers filed under Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance on an unadjusted basis in the current week, down from 655,999 in the previous week. This programme extends the length of benefits for those whose regular term has run out, a good indication of long-term unemployment. Through the July 25 week, the most recent available, there are 10,723,936 people on PUA assistance across all programmes.

The level of continuing claims fell by 604,000 to 15.486 million in the August 1 week after hitting a four-month low in the previous week.

Also released on Thursday, the BLS’s import price index rose by 0.7% in July but was up only 0.2% excluding fuel prices. Analysts had expected a 0.6% increase. This was in line with the PPI and CPI data released this week that suggest some pickup in prices and softer readings earlier in the shutdown. There were price gains for several import components, but a sharp decline in the prices for foods and feeds. Even with the July increase, overall import prices were down 3.3% year/year, with nonfuel imports flat over that same period. Export prices rose 0.8% in July on a 1.5% rise in agricultural products. Export prices were up 0.7% outside of agriculture.

Colin Lambert

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