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February 20, 2020 Blog 1 min read
With weekly claims reaching their lowest point since April 2019, any near-term concerns about a potential sustained uptick in layoffs have faded for now.
2.20.20 Jobless Claims ChartInitial claims for Americans applying for first-time unemployment insurance rose by 4,000 to 210,000 for the week ended February 15, in line with expectations. Claims for the prior week were revised modestly higher to 206,000. The four-week moving average of jobless claims dipped to 209,000, its lowest point since last April.

Claims had risen moderately in early December but have since receded back to a range very near multi-decade lows a touch above 200,000 for several weeks. Any near-term concerns about a potential sustained uptick in layoffs have faded for now.

Job creation was solid again in January with 225,000 added, but there are still some signs that labor market conditions are easing. Average weekly hours have eased, and job openings have come down in recent months, evidence of some ebbing in demand.

Still, it’s not clear how much of the easing in conditions reflects the lagged effects of last year’s growth slowdown and outright contraction in manufacturing. Since then, the economy appears to have stabilized and has shown some signs of reaccelerating. If that can be sustained, job market conditions should firm as well, just as jobless claims have improved in the past month.

The bottom line is that job market conditions may be softer at the margins, but layoffs remain quite low and employers remain generally content to maintain their existing payrolls. Should job openings continue to decline, job creation is likely to slow as well. For now though, employment conditions remain a relative bright spot in the economy.
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