With Puerto Rico still a wildcard, hurricane effects appear to be dissipating in initial jobless claims which fell 15,000 in the October 7 week to a lower-than-expected 243,000. After 2 weeks of being estimated, Puerto Rico issued its own results which were very low, presumably reflecting the inability of dislocated workers to file claims. Claims in the territory came in at only 118 vs downward revised totals of 328 and 312 in the prior 2 weeks (2,315 and 2,489 were the initial estimates). The Virgin Islands, at 1,154, were estimated in the latest week vs a slightly upward revised 1,054 in the prior week. South Carolina and Virginia were also estimated in the week.
Continuing claims, in lagging data for the September 30 week, fell 32,000 to 1.889 million with the 4-week average down 12,000 to a 1.925 million level that is tracking about 25,000 below the month-ago comparison. The unemployment rate for insured workers is also very favorable, down 1 tenth to a very low 1.3 percent.
Aside from the distortions from Puerto Rico, where claims may well spike in the coming reports, levels are returning to their pre-hurricane levels and pointing to great strength in the labor market, indicated by the 4-week average for initial claims which, at 257,500, is tracking about 5,000 below September.
Pressures from Hurricane Harvey's hit on Texas and Hurricane Irma's strike on Florida have been easing in recent jobless claims reports though the effects of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico, which so far have been estimated, pose a risk for an over-sized increase. But forecasters are calling for further improvement in initial jobless claims during the October 7 week, at a consensus 252,000 vs 260,000 in the prior week.