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Thursday, January 27, 2011


We got the Q4 2010 update on covered employment in today's initial claims release. 125,560,066.

I am truly surprised by this. I expected a small increase from the prior 125,845,777. Admittedly this is a small drop, but.... If you are wondering, this is quite consistent with December's employment/population ratio.

Peak in this cycle was 133,902,387 in Q4 2008. That puts us down by 8.3 million jobs. This is why I think that cutting off the 99ers is a bad idea without some sort of public works program.

Initial claims are often exceedingly volatile in January, but also surprised to the negative at 454,000. The four week moving average is a better indicator, but also rose to 428,750. This is 44K less than last year's comparable week average, but the sad part is that we were still losing net jobs at that time. BED. The unknown variable is new jobs created, and paradoxically, layoffs can increase while total employment increases if new job creation is picking up.

Again, a caveat. I do not know what initial claims currently mean. Many say they do but I don't see how they can think so; the relationship between initial claims and employment has recently broken down, apparently because many workers who lose jobs are contract or temp workers who do not qualify for unemployment benefits.

However anecdotal reports of improving job prospects have been increasing, and if the ratio between claims and employment has broken down, an increase in the four week moving average may not really be a true negative.

We are looking for a disappointing January retail sales number. It's time to watch freight tightly over the next few months. The bad winter in the NE will not help January and February. Flatness in fuel consumption hints that Q1 isn't getting off to a good start.

Monday's unnerving 5.16 coverage ratio for six month Treasuries does not indicate a strong first half for the US, but some of it may well be due to foreign unease. Going only by treasuries, one would say that first half prospects are weakening but also that the weakness is beginning to go to the second half.

Further swearing derived from durables:
Ex-defense, new durables orders were down 2.5%. That's not so good, but the thing that has me turning the air blue this morning is motor vehicles. New orders have been weak lately, and December's new orders came in only at +1.7%, following two months of small declines.

As far as I can see, hopes of riding this through without too much more agony lie in the need to replace autos in the US. Auto sales have been very strong factors in the retail reports, and that needs to continue for jobs, freight and money circulation. It is always disturbing to find yourself riding just one horse, but on the other hand, as long as that horse is autos, you are not in a bad position. However this horse may be a bit tired.

Capital goods new orders were down 6%, after dropping 6.6% in October and 5.9% in November. Both primary and fabricated metals orders were down in December. This isn't any sort of disastrous report, but it does seem to indicate that manufacturing strength, which has been a strong positive for US growth, is going to have a weakening influence over the next few months.

Auto sales push forward using credit has been similar to housing, the demand side runs out and prior trend becomes apparent. Everybody has seen the Ads for American autos which is always no down,extended payments 72 months,no interest or European/Asia models offering cheap leases. The bottom line is that medium household incomes do not support 30K auto/trucks purchase nor does the market for college grads buying cheap new cars as they are saddled with student loan debt.
The FED/Congress/White house seeks to push consumer demand with credit but unemployment/stagnant incomes/high debt levels means that dog don't hunt.

"...the need to replace autos..."

Need a car to get to work, but need to work to get a car.

I think this will be a recurring theme in the decades to come. Sigh.

My girlfriend just got her worker retraining cut off. That pushes phlebotomy out a year. She'll qualify for other types of funding in the fall.

I can't even just offer to pay for it out of pocket. She lost her place in line. Classes are full.
Friend of mine was laid off a couple years ago. Looked for work over a year. Completed phlebotomy training courses recently. Can't get work in that field either.

3-4 years ago I went car shopping with another friend. Said we were paying cash. Some sales reps literally walked away from us.

I've been car shopping the last couple months and now the sales reps are like flies on sherbet for cash-in-hand buyers and will negotiate regardless of make. I don't know if this is normal or not, but this is the auto sales behavior I was used to in the late 70's to mid 80's; it wasn't that way a decade ago especially with imports.
"Completed phlebotomy training courses recently. Can't get work in that field either."

I guess our wages are still to high.
Mark, most hospitals are laying off. I assume the labs are still hiring, but they won't need that many. I don't think phlebotomy is the answer; I keep reading about graduates of tech-type medical programs not being able to get work.

I know of quite a few LPNs who have been laid off from hospitals.
Spork - but stock prices are high! It's a Fed win!

My sis runs a blood lab at a hospital's urgent care facility and her budget was cut. She now has to farm out some of the work to the hospital, but that means the results take longer for the patient to get. Instead of 48-hour turnaround it's now about a week unless the doctor wants it sooner - usually the doc doesn't care until the patient complains.
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