January's employment report proved surprisingly strong and jobless claims this month point to another strong employment report for February. Initial claims hit the Econoday consensus at 244,000 in the February 18 week which is also the sample week for the February employment report. Comparisons with the sample week of the January report show a small increase of 7,000 but, when looking at the 4-week averages, a 6,500 decline. At 241,000, the current 4-week average is the lowest since July 1973.
Data for continuing claims lag, so a sample-week to sample-week comparison won't be available until next week. But the data are moving lower with continuing claims down 17,000 to 2.060 million in the February 11 week with this 4-week average down 9,000 to a 2.070 million level that is nearly 25,000 below the month-ago comparison.
Several states were estimated during the week which, for initial claims, was a holiday shortened one for Presidents Day. But the trends for this report are unmistakable, pointing to strong demand for labor.
Initial jobless claims have posted back-to-back readings in the 230,000s, a rare indication of strength in the labor market. The February 18 week matches the sample week of the February employment report and forecasters are calling for substantial strength, at 243,000 and little changed from 239,000 in the prior week.