business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal writes that the US Department of Labor yesterday reported that "worker applications for unemployment benefits rose during the first half of February, pausing a downward trend that pointed to an improving labor market amid other signs that the economic recovery is picking up.

"The Labor Department on Thursday said the increase to 861,000 last week was accompanied by a 55,000 upward revision of claims in the prior week, on a seasonally adjusted basis. That put the four-week moving average, which smooths out week-to-week fluctuations, at 833,000, slightly lower than the prior week and near the top of a roughly 750,000 to 850,000 range since last October."

The Journal notes that there are "signs of stepped-up growth in the new year. On Wednesday, the government said retail sales, a measure of purchases at stores, restaurants and online, jumped a seasonally adjusted 5.3% in January from a month earlier, helped by pandemic-related federal stimulus payments distributed to households at the start of the year. Manufacturing output also has neared pre-pandemic levels."

“It’s fair to say that with rising caseload, the job market has stalled,” said Augustine Faucher, chief economist of the PNC Financial Services Group, tells the Washington Post.  “The job market will get better. With a big jump in retail sales and cases falling significantly and vaccine distribution, the jobs should start to rebound in the spring. But I think things are going to be pretty dicey in the next few months.”

KC's View:

Any economic recovery is likely to be good for most retailers, though the consensus seems to be that any recovery is going to be gradual … since it is going to take time to put an end to the pandemic, it is going to take time for the economy to reach pre-Covid levels.