One major US economic indicator remains unquestionably good

One indicator continues to destroy concerns that the US economy is imminently headed for recession.

Weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance (aka jobless claims) are near the lowest level in 42 years.

Most recently on Thursday, the Department of Labour reported that first-time claims for unemployment insurance to 263,000 last week, which was lower than what economists had expected. It was the lowest level in 12 weeks.

The four-week moving average, which smooths out the volatility of the weekly data, also fell, by 3,000 to 267,500, the lowest since early August.

In a note to clients on Friday, BMO Capital’s chief investment strategist Brian Belski noted that claims have spiked leading into all post-war recessions. And judging by the trend in claims, the economy is nowhere near recession.

The continued strength of this indicator, which contrasts the weak jobs reports of the past two months, has raised some economists’ eyebrows about those monthly employment numbers.

“The nervousness among employers evident in the recent payroll numbers — if you believe them — is entirely absent from the claims numbers, just as almost all indicators of hiring have remained strong,” wrote Pantheon Macroeconomics’ Ian Shepherdson on Thursday.

Capital Economics’ Paul Ashworth also noted that the jobs reports have been an outlier compared to other labour market indicators.

“If there had been a genuine deterioration in labour market conditions we would also have expected it to show up as a rise in initial jobless claims,” Ashworth said on Monday. “But claims remain unusually low at well below 300,000.”

Ashworth also noted that job openings, and the difference between those in the Conference Board’s survey who say job openings are plentiful and those who say they are scarce, are near pre-recession lows, and still heading lower.

“Given what the multitude of employment metrics had been flagging about the jobs landscape, the September employment report seems like something right out of Bizarro World,” wrote RBC Capital’s Tom Porcelli.

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