Somewhat overshadowed by the big and relentless declines in risk assets, today’s read on jobless claims came in much better than expected. While economists were forecasting first-time claims to come in at a level of 280K, the actual reading came in 269K. That’s the lowest weekly level since mid-December and 25K below the mid-January high of 294K. On any other day, you might have expected a big sell-off in Treasuries, but that that didn’t occur this morning.
With this week’s decline, the four-week moving average of claims dropped from 284.75K down to 281.25K. Even though the decline is welcome, the four-week moving average is still 22K above its cycle low of 259.25K seen 16 weeks ago back in October.
Where this week’s claims report was really strong, though, was in the non-seasonally adjusted (NSA) reading. This week’s level dropped from 311.9K down to 290.8K. Not only is that more than 116K below the average for the current week of the year going back to 2000, but it is also the third lowest reading for the first week of February in the history of the series dating back to 1967. The only two other times where NSA claims were lower at this time of year were in 1973 (285K) and 1967 (274K). Keep in mind too, that back then the population was less than two-thirds the size it is now.