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Weekly U.S. jobless claims fell to 184,000, lowest level since 1969

Yahoo Finance anchors discuss U.S. jobless numbers dropping to 184,000 and what to expect from inflation data.

Video transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: All right, breaking news on the jobs front. Jobless claims came in at 184,000 in the latest week-- the lowest level since 1969. Brian, over to you. That's your birth year. Remember those years?

BRIAN CHEUNG: 1960? Come on, Brian. Absolutely, not. No, well after that.

But yes, as you mentioned, the headline number coming in from the Department of Labor this morning. The amount of initial jobless claims, at least, filed for the week ending December 4 clocked in at 184,000. That's not only the lowest amount in a single week that we've seen since the pandemic. It's actually the lowest that we've seen since 1969, and really underscores how settled the labor market-- or at least those that are currently out of labor market-- are feeling right now.

But this is not to say that the labor market matching is going well, because when you take a look at the data that we had gotten yesterday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which shows job turnover and job openings. The amount of job openings, at least, in the month of October-- that data is a little bit lagged-- clocked in at 11 million. That's a very elevated level that is well above pre-pandemic levels, and actually shows a bit of sideways movement since the summer of this year in employers being able to bring staff on board.

Now, the quits rate, however, declined to 2.8% in that JOLTS report, which again, shows that turnover might be settling. The amount of job searching, job switching is a little bit reduced in October than it was compared to, say, September of this year.

But again, with 11 million job openings, you're still hearing about the difficulty for employers to find people to staff up. That's led to a lot of business closures. When you take a look at the Fed Beige Book, details and disclosures of businesses having to shut down, reduce their hours, turn down contracts, because they just simply don't have the labor supply available to actually do their normal course of business.

This is all going to be a running theme, as is, of course, the inflationary numbers, which we'll get tomorrow. The Consumer Price Index is going to have a new print that we'll get from the Bureau of Labor Statistics tomorrow, which could show a very hot print. Guys, the estimates on the street for year-over-year CPI growth is something close to 6.8%. That would represent yet another record-breaking figure.

JULIE HYMAN: Yeah, and you guys, when we look at this sort of dual mandate of the Fed, right? You look at the employment picture. You look at the inflation picture. The employment picture seems much more settled, right?

There's still the question of why haven't people come back to work. But in terms of whether we are getting to near full employment and whether there is a robust labor market, I don't think that's in question, right? The question really remains on the inflation side and about the sustainability of inflation.

And yes, the inflation print tomorrow is a big deal. Are we going to get that 6.8%? Which by the way, drops to 4.9% for the estimate if you exclude food and energy. But of course, the question is really not about what we saw last month, it's what we're going to continue to see going into next year, and how persistent this inflation is going to be. So not to downplay what we're going to see tomorrow, but I want my crystal ball. I want to know what's going to happen as we head into next year.

By the way, I just heard a report recently, in terms of supply chains, that there aren't as many boats right off the coast of Los Angeles, but that's because they're further out to sea now. They're not coming-- they're waiting further out because of new pollution regulations, so they're still there. And so that part of the problem doesn't seem to be getting much better.

BRIAN SOZZI: Yeah, I'm sure it'll be some time before that supply chain-- these supply chain issues correct themselves, Julie. But Brian, let me get back to you. What should investors take more stock in? Is it that JOLTS report yesterday? Or something like the jobless claims today? I mean, the numbers are really on different side of the spectrums.

BRIAN CHEUNG: Yeah, certainly. And I was taking a look at what markets were doing in response to that report. Because again, when you see a new record, for example, you do wonder if markets pay attention. And it seems like it hasn't really changed the movement.

Dow futures is still down about 3/10 of a percent, at least in the premarket moves. We'll see what happens when the bell rings at 9:30. But I think when it comes to just the overall picture, a lot of this probably isn't new, right? I mean, yes, the number ticked down to 184,000. That's lower than the week that we had seen before that.

But I think the amount of water that markets, or Fed watchers, or economists, or just the general public puts into these weekly jobless claims numbers certainly isn't as pronounced now, as it was during the initial months of the pandemic when, to be honest, the jobless claims were the closest thing that we had to real-time data illustrating just how rapid the job losses amid those closures across the country really were.

Now, jobless claims now are still very much in the same frequency. But I think people just aren't as concerned about the amount of new people filing new initial claims, whether or not the churn of people returning to those unemployment insurance claims are elevated at.

Now, when it comes to the overall picture, we're not really necessarily concerned about how long people are on unemployment, but rather what's the reason for them not coming back into the labor market, when we consider that nearly four million jobs shortfall compared to prepandemic levels of people that were in the labor force. That's the bigger question that we get from the monthly data, which comes out from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And I think that is what people are going to be paying very close attention to, as we continue to try to slog out of this in 2022.

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