1st Time Unemployment Claims Dip Again but Point to Weaker Jobs Report

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights

  • 1st time claims for unemployment insurance for the week ended August 21 DECLINED for the third straight week, down 1,000 to 261,000, the lowest level in five weeks;
  • The number of claim for the week ended August 14 was unrevised at 262,000
  • Filings though remained under 300,000 for the 77th straight week, the longest streak since 1970;
  • Four week moving average of first time claims DROPPED 1,250 to 264,000;
  • The four week moving average represented 0.174 percent of total employment, DOWN from 0.175 percent one week earlier and from 0.182 percent one year ago;
  • Continuing claims for the week ended August 14 FELL 30,000 to 2,145,000, largest week-week drop since the end of June;
  • The number of continuing claims for the week ended August 7 was UNREVISED at 2,175,000;
  • Four-week moving average of continuing claims INCREASED 250 to 2,155,250.

Image result for unemployment insurance claims

Though first-time claims for unemployment insurance declined – again – in the week ending August 21, that’s not the major takeaway from this week’s Labor Department report.

Initial (and continuing) claims for have been so low for so long it should come as no surprise even the slightest bump up, as experienced at the end of July, could have cautionary ripple effects.

That increase in first-time claims – a not insignificant 14,000 to a still low 266,000 continues to plague the data series’ four-week moving average with the result the four week moving average for the “reference week” used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Situation report is up about 6,250 from mid-July, a signal we might not see as robust an improvement in the labor market.

Not only is the four-week moving average of initial claims higher in mid-August than it was in mid-July, but so is the average for continuing claims, a rough surrogate for payroll employment.

The economy, in the last three months, added an average of 190,000 new jobs, even accounting for a paltry 24,000 increase in May.

The increase in the four-week moving average of continuing claims suggests job growth may have slowed somewhat in August. (The average increase in payrolls for June and July was 274,000.) One explanation could be found in a study by economists Pauline Leung of Cornell and Alexandre Mas from Princeton who found the ACA expansion of Medicaid had little impact on employment.

“If workers ‘locked’ into employment for insurance reasons perceive the Medicaid expansions to be temporary due to constitutional or implementation challenges, they may be reluctant to leave their jobs and employer-sponsored insurance coverage,” the authors hypothesized.

The employment “churning” would show up in the payroll report.

That said, the jobs report to be released next week (on the Friday before Labor Day) may not be as robust as recent reports

You can hear Mark Lieberman every Friday at 6:20 am on the Morning Briefing on P.O.T.U.S. radio @sxmpotus, Sirius-XM 124. You can follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

 

 

 

July Existing Home Sales Slip

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights

  • The pace of existing home sales SLIPPED in July, down 3.2 percent or 180,000 to a seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of 5.39 million;
  • The June sales pace of 5.57 million was not revised;
  • Median price of an existing single family home FELL after five straight monthly increases, to $244,100 a drop of $3,500 or 1.4 percent;
  • Year-year the median price is UP $12,300 or 5.3 percent;
  • Number of homes available for sale in July EDGED UP 0.9 percent or 20,000 to 2.13 million;
  • With the slowed sales pace, the months’ supply of homes for sale in July grew to 4.7.

Image result for sales of previously owned homes

After breathing the rarified air of the strongest sales pace in almost nine years, sales of previously owned homes slipped in July. The decline was not unexpected since the pending home sales in for May – tracking contracts signed that month – slipped 3.7 percent which suggested a falloff in closings. Both sales (closings) of existing homes and prices fell in July, according to a report Wednesday by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) http://www.realtor.org/news-releases/2016/08/existing-home-sales-lose-steam-in-july.

The July drop led to the first year-year decline in sales since last November, down 1.6 percent from July 2015.

While first-time homebuyers accounted for the surge in closings in June, according to the NAR, the share of transactions by new buyers edged down to 32 percent in July from33 percent in June, still up from 30 percent in May.

The dip in first-time homebuyers threatens to continue the cycle of empty-nesters unable to sell their homes even though the supply of homes increased slightly in July. The home is a unique asset – unlike say stocks – since it provides an opportunity for growth while at the same time providing shelter. Many homeowners look to the growing value of their homes as a source of funds for retirement. The inability to sell thus affects retirement spending.

NAR President Tom Salomone of Florida, said “appraisal complications” (translation: prices often exceed the appraised value of a home, a factor which contributed to the foreclosure crisis) are delaying closings.

Those “complications,” he explained, are “a combination of sharply growing home prices in some areas, the uptick in home sales this year and the strong refinance market overworking the already reduced number of practicing appraisers.  Realtors® are carefully monitoring this trend, and some have already indicated they’re extending closing dates on contracts to allow extra time to accommodate the possibility of appraisal-related delays.”

Other market elements were positive with mortgage interest rates continuing to fall as employment and income improve.

Distressed sales – foreclosures and short sales – dropped to just five percent of transactions, down from six percent in June and seven percent one year ago. As distressed sales become an increasingly smaller share of the market, median home prices increase which, should attract more sellers and increase inventories.

There is, though, a downside to increased inventories of previously owned homes in that the market for newly built homes contracts.

Hear Mark Lieberman every Friday, on the Morning Briefing on P.O.T.U.S. radio @sxmpotus, Sirius-XM 124, at 6:20 am Eastern Time. You can follow Mark Lieberman on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

New Home Sales Improve in July to Fastest Pace Since October 2007;

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights

  • Pace of contracts for new home sales JUMPED 12.4 percent in July to 654,000 (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate) – highest since October 2007;
  • Median price of a new home FELL in July 5.1 percent, $15,900, to $294,600 – lowest since January;
  • Sales pace for June revised DOWN to 582,000 from 592,000;
  • Number of homes for sale FELL to 233,000 – lowest since last November;
  • Months’ supply of new homes for sale TUMBLED to 4.3 months in July – lowest since August 2005

Image result for new home sales

In baseball, when a hitter is in a slump, observers look for a “break out” at bat or game. Well, new home sales have been in a slump and July may have been such a “break out.”

The pace of contracts for new home sales rose at its fastest pace in almost two years (August 2014 – 12.7 percent) as shoppers took advantage of a sharp drop in the median price of a new home – down 2.1 percent for the month and 0.5 percent year-year, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development-Census Bureau’s new home sales report for July.

The government data came despite a dip in buyer traffic as reported by the National Association of Home Buyers in its monthly Housing Market Index.

Tighter labor market conditions however are steadily lifting wages. The improved earnings coupled with mortgage rates near historic lows are combining to support housing. According to Freddie Mac, the average rate for a 30-year mortgage in July was 3.44 percent compared with 3.57 percent in June.

The weak inventory can be good news in that with demand running high it should translate into increased home building. Permits for new single-family homes through fell in July to an annualized rate of 711,000, the slowest pace since last August while permits for multi-family homes rose for the fourth straight month. Builders broke ground in July for single-family homes at the rate of 1.211 million – the second fastest pace since October 2007.

Data on sales of previously owned home sales are set for release from the National Association of Realtors Wednesday.  Unlike new home sales which are reported as contract signings, existing home sales are reported on closing, completed transactions. Those purchases jumped in June to the strongest level in more than nine years, helped by first-time buyers.

Hear Mark Lieberman on P.O.T.U.S. (Sirius-XM 124) Friday at 6:20 am Eastern Time. You can follow Mark Lieberman on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

1st Time Unemployment Claims Dip, Remain Low Historically

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights

  • 1st time claims for unemployment insurance for the week ended August 14 DECLINED for the second straight week, down 4,000 to 262,000;
  • The number of claim for the week ended August was unrevised at 266,000
  • Filings though remained under 300,000 for the 76th straight week, the longest streak since 1970;
  • Four week moving average of first time claims INCREASED 2,500 to 265,250;
  • The four week moving average represented 0.175 percent of total employment, UP from 0.173 percent one week earlier;
  • Continuing claims for the week ended August 7 INCREASED 15,000 to 2,175,000
  • The number of continuing claims for the week ended July 30 was REVISED UP 5,000 to 2,160,000;
  • Four-week moving average of continuing claims INCREASED 10,750 to 2,155,000.

Image result for unemployment insurance

The labor market continues to tread water – at the shallow end of the pool – with another drop in the number of individuals filing first time claims for unemployment according to the Labor Department’s report for the week ended August 14.

What makes the routine report – showing total first-time claims at 262,000 – somewhat more remarkable is it comes against a backdrop of high total employment: 151.5 million in the last Employment Situation release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the premise that you have to have a job before you can be laid off and eligible to file for unemployment insurance, when 262,000 people filed initial claims for unemployment insurance in March 1970, total employment was 78.9 million. So, while the current situation isn’t great for those who lost jobs, it isn’t bad in an historical context. Plus, the current level of new claimants matches up well with job openings: 5.6 million per the latest BLS report on the subject. (The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey wasn’t produced in 1970.

The point is, the tight labor market, as suggested by current numbers, suggest those who are laid off are not automatically doomed to be out of work for long.

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance at 2.175 million are way below the all-time high of 6.628 million in May 2009. Going back further, to March 1970, the number of continuing claims was about 1.52 million.

You can hear Mark Lieberman every Friday at 6:20 am on the Morning Briefing on P.O.T.U.S. radio @sxmpotus, Sirius-XM 124. You can follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

 

 

When Will Housing Break Out?

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Reports this week seem to suggest a rebound in housing:

  • Builder confidence, in August, reported Monday, climbed back to 60 (out of 100) after a relative slump for most of the year;
  • The August two-point INCREASE was made to look a bit better after the July index was revised down from 59 to 58;
  • July housing starts, reported by the Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development, INCREASED 2.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 1.211 million, the second fastest pace since October 2007 (the pace of starts was 1.213 million in June 2015 and March of this year);
  • Housing permits DIPPED to an annualized rate of 1.152 million in July from 1.153 million in June;
  • The rate of housing completion dropped to 1.026 million in July from1.119 million in June a decline of 2.1 percent, the third straight month over 1 million. In the last 12 months, the rate of housing completions averaged 1.018 million, up for 934,000 in the previous 12 months.

Image result for home building

With numbers like those, why are we still waiting and looking for housing to “break out?”

The answer – as it usually does – comes from looking behind the headline numbers and at other housing-related data.

Let’s take permits and starts for example.

The lucrative (for builders) single-family housing market did not share in the recovery in July.

Single-family starts rose just 0.5 percent to an annualized rate of 770,000 but multi-family starts jumped 5.0 percent to 441,000 – the fastest pace in nearly a year (446,000 last September).

The rate of completions of single-family homes dropped just 0.4 percent in July while completions of multi-family housing units dropped 24 percent, suggesting an increase in the supply of single-family compared with multi-family units.

That seems to be consistent with the trend away from homeownership. The homeownership rate, according to a Census report last month dropped to 62.9 percent, a 51-year low.

The message in the declining homeownership rate could suggest an alteration of the American Dream of homeownership.

A couple of factors go into that. Clearly weak income growth coupled with high prices discourage either first-time or trade-up buyers. The median price of an existing single-family was a record $247,700 in June after increasing for four straight months. Year-over-year, the median price of an existing single family home in June was up 4.8 percent and has increased for 52 consecutive months. The median price of a new single family home increased 6.2 percent in June, up 6.1 percent in the past year. The Case Shiller Home Price Index confirms similar trends.

Compounding the price pressures are sociological trends as would-be empty-nesters are no longer empty nesters as millennials struggling to find or keep jobs find themselves priced out of rental markets and return “home.” That’s created a bottleneck as potential home sellers keep their homes off the market, limiting choice. And, the inability to sell has a negative impact on retirement plans.

Adding to market uncertainty would be mortgage rates. With the Federal Reserve moving in fits and starts in monetary policy – one week hinting at a near-term rate hike only to move to stable rates the next week – buyers are uncertain as to whether they have a little more time to shop.

That factor has shown up in one of the components of the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index: buyer traffic, the only one of the three components to remain below 50 – the arbitrary line separating a pessimistic outlook from optimism. The last time the buyer traffic measure was at 50 or above was January 2006, when the homeownership rate topped 68 percent.

Employers have even slowed hiring. While residential construction jobs were increasing at a rate of 19,000 a month in the fourth quarter of 2015 and first quarter this year, residential construction employment has actually fallen since March 31.

Housing still has a long way to go.

Hear Mark Lieberman every Friday at 6:20 am on POTUS Morning Briefing, Sirius-XM 124. You can follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

 

 

1st Time Unemployment Claims Dip; Still Signal a Tight Labor Market

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights

  • 1st time claims for unemployment insurance for the week ended August 7 DIPPED 1,000 to 266,000, the highest level since mid-June;
  • The number of claim for the week ended July 30 was revised down 2,000 to 267,000
  • Filings though remained under 300,000 for the 75th straight week, the longest streak since 1970;
  • Four week moving average of first time claims INCREASED 2,500 to 262,750;
  • The four week moving average represented 0.173 percent of total employment, UP from 0.172 percent one week earlier;
  • Continuing claims for the week ended July 30 INCREASED 14,000 to 2,155,000
  • The number of continuing claims for the week ended July 23 was REVISED UP 2,000 from 2,139,000 to 2,141,000;
  • Four-week moving average of continuing claims INCREASED 500 to 2,143,000.

Image result for tight labor market

On the heels of a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing a slight drop in layoffs in June (from May), the Labor Department’s tally of first-time unemployment insurance claims fell a scant 1,000 or 0.37 percent for the week ended August 7.

It was the first drop in initial unemployment insurance claims since mid-July and the 75th straight weeks total first-time claims were less than 300,000, a streak dating back to 1970.

The report on claims supports the view of a tight labor market which was also seen in Wednesday’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report. The tight labor market suggests employers will have to compete for new hires and pay up to retain existing employees, a political plus for the Obama Administration and, by extension, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Average weekly earnings broke through in July, increasing a solid 0.6 percent or $5.33, the largest increase since May 2015. Net net, average weekly earnings in July were up 2.3 percent in the last year after wallowing with more tepid year-year increases. To be sure, one month does not constitute a trend, but coupled with other indicators of a tight labor market, the July increase should be followed with still stronger gains.

Those stronger earnings should produce a pick-up in consumer demand and spending leading to an inflationary spiral which is the likely reason for another interest rate hike by the Federal Open Market Committee when it meets in September.

You can hear Mark Lieberman every Friday at 6:20 am on the Morning Briefing on P.O.T.U.S. radio @sxmpotus, Sirius-XM 124. You can follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

 

 

June Report Has Positive JOLT for Economy

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

 

Highlights:

  • Hiring IMPROVED in June for the first time in four months, increasing 1.7percent;
  • Job openings at the end of June ROSE 2.0 percent to 5.62 million;
  • The ratio of unemployed to job opening EDGED UP ever-so-slightly in June to 1.38 – still well below the recessionary peak of 6.65 unemployed per opening;
  • The number of job openings rose in June in all but three industry sectors;

Image result for hiring

Looking for a job? Your chances improved in June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS)  release which reported 11 industry sectors had an increase in the number of job openings. Three of the sectors industry sectors showed an increase in unemployment, according to the BLS’ Employment Situation Report released last week.

Matching the two reports, which together track the labor market, showed unemployment increased in the construction, manufacturing and trade sectors, but the number of job openings in those sectors also increased.

Overall, the JOLTS report, which tracks the ins and outs of the labor market (while the Employment Situation report provides a snapshot) showed an overall increase in the number of job openings – up 2 percent or 110,000 from May to June. At the same time the number of hires grew 84,000 or 1.7 percent in June. Through June, employers are on pace for 62.4 million hires this year, up from 61.7 million last year and the most hires since 2006 – the year before the Great Recession.

The number of layoffs and discharges in June dropped to 1.64 million (from 1.70 in May) matching September 2014 for the lowest level in more than two years.

The number of “quits,” a signal of worker confidence in the ability to find a new job, dipped slightly to 2.91 million June, but that was the fifth straight month of more than 2.9 million quits. In the immediate aftermath of the Recession, “quits” were well below 2 million.

The JOLTS report, based on the number of openings by industry offered some hints as to sectors which might be expanding, among them education and health services, financial services and government. The number of government jobs indeed increased by 38,000 according to last week’s jobs report for July.

You can hear Mark Lieberman on P.O.T.U.S Morning Briefing (Sirius 124) every Friday at 6:20 am Eastern Time. Follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

To Fix the Economy, Fix the Budget

 

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump missed something in their plans for the economy: the arcane federal budget system.

Image result for federal budget

Under the current budget system, we – both the average citizen and legislators who approve the federal spending plan – can’t determine what it costs to “turn the lights on” each day, precisely what the operating costs of the federal government are.

While Clinton has proposed a massive infrastructure program – long needed – it, as other capital projects, would be paid for from the same pot of money used to pay the salaries of the approximately 2.7 million federal workers.

Such a scheme makes little sense. It would be like asking a homeowner to redo a kitchen using only weekly income. Most likely that homeowner would borrow for the capital improvements.

Paul Krugman, writing in The New York Times, recently endorsed the idea of borrowing to rescue the nation’s crumbling bridges, tunnels and roads because current interest rates are low and, he argued, the taxes paid by the construction worker hired would more than cover the debt service costs of the borrowing.

But even Krugman missed the point.

The capital expenses would be part of the overall federal budget which does not segregate operating expenses from capital spending. While fiscal watchdogs could rail against the idea of borrowing to pay day-to-day expenses – sort of like taking out a mortgage to pay for the groceries – borrowing for capital expenses only would be more responsible.

Borrowing itself is not a bad thing but taking out that mortgage for recurring expenses is.

States and local governments – laboratories for government – generally don’t borrow for routine expenses. There are, to be sure, exceptions. It was capital borrowing that brought New York City to its fiscal knees in the 1970s, requiring loan guarantees from the federal government – which the city paid for producing a “profit” for the federal government – to provide the city with time to put its fiscal house in order. Borrowing for routine expense also forced Detroit into bankruptcy.

The federal government should learn the lessons of New York City and Detroit and create a capital budget which would separate spending for long term projects from daily spending. One argument against government borrowing is we are saddling future generations with debt. True, but we would also be providing those future generations with a sound infrastructure. If those generations will benefit from better roads, tunnels and bridges, isn’t it only fair that those generations pay for them?

During the Bill Clinton administration, a presidential commission studied the idea of a federal capital budget. The commission could not agree on a definition for capital items, which are usually thought of as items which have a useful life of three or more years. One of the sticking points was how a missile or other weapons would be classified. (Local governments with police forces face a similar dilemma about ammunition for police.)

It may be time to look again at the issue.

Separate capital and operating budgets too would have the advantage of rationalizing our borrowing if it were allowed only to fund capital projects. Tax revenues would be limited to paying for operating expenses with specific revenues earmarked for Social Security and Medicare which theoretically are paid for through specific tax revenues. (Think of the “lockboxes” which were part of the George W. Bush – Al Gore 2000 presidential campaign.)

Taking capital spending out of the federal budget would also provide greater transparency by allowing citizens and legislators to determine just how much government is costing and put us on a path toward the elusive balanced budget. The first step toward budget balance would be to bring the budget into “practical balance,” that is ensuring tax revenues cover operating expenses excluding debt service.

However, the solution is developed, the goal should be to figure out how much government costs and match that against the revenue streams while at the same time determining and funding capital projects which will have long term benefits.

Unfortunately, neither of the two major candidates address this most critical issue.

Hear Mark Lieberman every Friday at 6:20 am on the Morning Briefing on POTUS (Politics of the United States) radio, Sirius-XM Channel 124. You can also follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

Economy Adds 256K Jobs in July Signaling Continued Strength

 

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights

  • Payroll jobs INCREASED a solid 256,000 in July;
  • Number of multiple jobholders INCREASED 154k in July
  • Unemployment rate REMAINED at 4.9 percent;
  • Average weekly earnings ROSE $5.33 in August, strongest month-month gain since May 2015;
  • June’s 287k job gain REVISED UP to 292k, May’s 11k increase REVISED UP to 24k
  • Labor force INCREASE 407k, on strong 420k GAIN in employment;
  • Labor force participation rate ROSE 0.1 percentage points to 62.8 percent
  • Employment-Population ratio ROSE to 59.7 percent
  • Average weekly hours REMAINED at 34.4 in July;
  • Part time employment INCREASED 150K after falling in June
  • Temp jobs ROSE 17k;
  • Private sector ADDED 201k jobs, in July;
  • Government employment, led by local governments, INCREASED 38k, largest month-month gain in three years;

Image result for employment situation

The economy picked up again in July, at least based on the monthly employment situation report, adding a solid 256,000 jobs on top of the 292,000 increase in June.

A chunk of the job gain may have gone to individuals who already had jobs as the number of multipole jobholders was up 154,000, the strongest month-month increase this year.

The strong report – particularly the rise in earnings – could put the Federal Open Market Committee back on track for another interest rate hike. The FOMC next meets September 20-21.

While average hourly and weekly earnings each posted strong gains, the two lowest paying industry sectors – retail and leisure sand hospitality – added just under 60,000 jobs in July, about 24.6 percent of the new jobs.

But the “big story” in the numbers was the increase in the labor force participation rate. Typically, that would mean an increase in unemployment as individuals on the sidelines begin looking for work. But unemployment in July actually declined about 13,000. The number of re-entrants to the labor force increased 30,000 but the number of new entrants dropped 76,000 suggesting a still-challenging job market.

Every industry sector with the exception of mining and information – added jobs in July.  The mining sector, which includes oil drilling and extraction, has shed 231,000 jobs since the beginning of last year, including 7,000 in July. The number of jobs in the information sector — which includes publishing, broadcasting and motion pictures – in July was unchanged from June.

Aside from the overall increase in jobs, there were other encouraging signs in the report with a report of an additional 9,000 construction jobs –including more residential construction jobs.

While the overall unemployment rate was flat at 4.9 percent, the teenage unemployment rate dropped 0.4 percentage points to a still high 15.6 percent and the unemployment rate for blacks and Hispanics fell as well to 8.4 percent and 5.4 percent respectively.

Hear Mark Lieberman every Friday morning at 6:20 am on The Morning Briefing on POTUS on Sirius-XM 124.

You can follow Mark Lieberman on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

1st Time Unemployment Claims Up for 2nd Straight Week

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights

  • 1st time claims for unemployment insurance for the week ended July 30 ROSE 3,000 to 269,000, the highest level since mid-June;
  • Initial claims increased for the second straight week for the first time since April;
  • There was no revision to the reported number of filings for the week ended July 23;
  • Filings though remained under 300,000 for the 74th straight week, the longest streak since 1973;
  • Four week moving average of first time claims INCREASED 3,750 to 260,250;
  • The four week moving average represented 0.171 percent of total employment, UNCHANGED from one week earlier;
  • Continuing claims for the week ended July 23 DECLINED 6,000 to 2,138,000
  • Continuing claims for the week ended July 16 REVISED UP 5,000 from 2,139,000 to 2,144,000;
  • Four-week moving average of continuing claims INCREASED 5,250 to 2,141,750.

Image result for unemployment insurance

Despite pronouncements from the Federal Open Market Committee, the labor picture became a little gloomier with the report Thursday of 269,000 new first time claims for unemployment insurance, according to the Department of Labor.

It was the second straight weekly increase in unemployment insurance claims, the first back-to-back weekly increases in three months. To be sure, before an individual can be laid off, and thus qualify to file for unemployment insurance, that individual must be employed which supports the idea employment is increasing. That said, jobs may be more tenuous in an environment in which a variety of reports show spotty weaknesses in the economy from durable goods orders to factory orders to retail sales.

The retail sales reports are particularly vulnerable to personal earnings data which have been limping along at the bottom, taking two steps forward but one step backwards with the result that year-year earnings growth has been weak. Since a lot of economics is psychological, reports of weak earnings growth – compounded by campaign rhetoric – discourages spending, continuing a downward economic spiral.

The volatility in the report on claims for unemployment insurance is yet another reminder of uncertainty even though the overall number of those collecting unemployment insurance – or applying – remains low. One of the reasons for the low numbers is measures put into place at the height of the Recession either to limit the length of time over which benefits could be collected or drop countercyclical programs which had been put into place to address just such employment crises.

The bump up in claims will not have an impact on the Employment Situation report to be released tomorrow by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That report will be based on data derived the middle of July. The consensus forecast is payrolls increased by about 180,000 in July and the unemployment rate dipped to 4.8 percent. In June the economy added 287,000 after adding just 11,000 in May. The volatility in the jobs report matched the volatility in the month-month change in the four-week moving averages of new and continuing claims for unemployment insurance.

The averages for both series improved from mid-June to mid-July but should serve to keep jobs data on a steady course.

Hear Mark Lieberman tomorrow, at 8:45 am on the Morning Briefing on P.O.T.U.S. radio @sxmpotus, Sirius-XM and again at 12:05 pm on the Midday Briefing. You can follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.