The four week moving average initial unemployment claims tantalizingly hit the 375,000 number associated with reasonable job creation. This is the best performance since the Great Recession. However the weekly number increased today. Any continued improvement in the job market will now start to make an impact on the overall economy. Will we see continued improvement? We should know by the end of January.
I was in downtown Lansing today, and it looked like a ghost town. A couple restaurants had no visible customers, one had just someone sweeping--even the library seemed relatively calm. And then there was The Peanut Shop! A double line, out the door! GO figure.
Unemployment claims came in with a strong showing today. Seasonally adjusted claims were 364,000, below the magic number of 375,000 that is associated with strong employment growth. More importantly, the 4-week average continues to show a year-over-year improvement of 30,000+. If that trends continues we should see a good first quarter of 2012--look for significant employment increases then. But don't expect a paved road: the Fed is still not allowing money supply (M3) to grow, and the economy will be muted until the Fed gets its act together.
My totally unscientific and subjective perception of consumers around mid-Michigan is that people are in the stores and the malls. Unlike last year, their carts have items in them and consumers have bags in their hands. I don't see much in the way of frills -- big screen TVs at low prices don't seem to attract much attention -- but maybe consumers are spending a little more on essentials and basic
Money supply M3 fell this week after rising for a couple weeks. A sustained recovery is not possible without sustained increases in the money supply. Unless Bernanke has a sudden change of heart and starts caring about the economy, look for a long period of sluggish growth. The current low growth won't affect the fourth quarter economy, but it will have effects down the road.
The economy had four good 'at bats' in November. It wasn't enough to score a run, but there are now runners in scoring position and with a good December we could at last begin to see some broad economic improvement.
What are the four good 'at bats'? Private-sector employment grew by 140,000 for the month--more like an infield single than a solid hit, but still a baserunner. Consumers had a good swing at the ball. Black Friday was better than last year for in-store retail sales, as were the Thanksgiving week and the Black Friday weekend, up 1.9% over last year; for November same-store retail sales rose 3.1%. Cyber Monday generated a 22% to 33% increase in on-line sales relative to last year. No extra bases, but consumers provided a solid hit in November. Unemployment did OK: the four week average of initial unemployment claims fell to under 400,000. This doesn't qualify as a hit of any kind, but we can credit the improvement of almost 38,000 fewer layoffs than the prior year as a base on balls. Money supply (M3) turned around in the second half of the month after a weak showing in October: at the end of the month M3 stood at 14.8 billion, with a 6% year-over-year growth rate in the last week of the month. Still, this is lower than at the beginning of October or at the beginning of the Great Recession. Let's call this a foul ball and see what the money supply does in December.
A few more hits and the fourth quarter could be the turnaround we all need.