There are two important reports on the U.S. economy worth mentioning this morning. First, initial claims for unemployment benefits ended last week at 192K, according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is a decrease of 5K from the prior week, the lowest reading since 1969, and the 215th consecutive week that initial claims have not exceeded 300K. With first-time jobless claims continuing to hit new multi-decade lows it is clear that many employers remain reluctant to let go of talent in this tight labor market that quickly absorbs new entrants (job seekers). Although the streak of improving claims figures will not last forever, incoming data continue to provide no indication that the current economic expansion in America will not soon become the longest on record.
Elsewhere, advance estimates of retail and food services sales in March totaled $514.1 billion, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau. That is a 1.6 percent jump from February, the largest monthly increase since September 2017, and double the gain economists anticipated. Higher gasoline costs contributed to March’s above-trend print, but even core retail sales, which exclude the volatile automobiles and energy components, rose by 0.9 percent last month. That is significantly better than analysts’ 0.4 percent forecast and 12 of the 13 major retail categories posted a gain in March. The sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument, and book stores segment was the lone detractor. Altogether, December’s unusually weak retail sales print continues to look more like a temporary setback, as the strong gains in January and March have together more than offset the end-of-2018 decline. In fact, total “control group” retail sales, which exclude food services, car dealers, building-materials stores, and gasoline stations, climbed to a new cycle high in March. This bodes well for the preliminary first quarter U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) report due out later this month.
Sources: Econoday, U.S. DoL, U.S. DoC, Twitter, ZH, Bloomberg, FRBSL
Post author: Charles Couch