Weekly Jobless Claims Rise To Five-Week High, Q3 GDP Reading Holds at 33.1%

Weekly jobless claims jumped to a five week high, while a second estimate of U.S. GDP showed no change from the flash estimate of a record 33.1% annualized gain.

The U.S. saw more than three quarters of a million Americans file for unemployment benefits last week, Commerce Department data indicated Wednesday, while a second reading of third quarter growth showed no change from the previous record gain.

Weekly jobless claims rose to 778,000 over the week ending on November 21, up from a revised 748,000 figure over the prior period and just ahead of the consensus forecast of 730,000. The second consecutive weekly increase puts the four-week continued claim average at 6.071 million., down from the prior tally of 6.37 million.

Meanwhile, the Department's second reading of third quarter GDP was pegged at an annualized rate of 33.1%, matching the flash estimate from last month, which was the best quarterly gain on record. 

"The second straight increase in initial claims is consistent, unfortunately, with the message from the Homebase small business employment data, namely, that the labor market is deteriorating again in the face of the Covid third wave," said Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics. "We expect claims to keep rising for several more weeks, because people are retreating from social interactions, and state and local authorities are adding restrictions to dining and other indoor commercial activity across the country." 

"Strength in manufacturing and construction ought to offset the weakness in services in the November payroll numbers, just, but December now appears to be on course to see an absolute decline," he added. "The need for further policy easing ought to be obvious, though Congress apparently has better things to do."

Futures contracts tied to the Dow are indicating a modest 55 point decline from Tuesday's record-high close of 30,046.24 points following the twin data releases, while those linked to the S&P 500 suggest a 1.5 point slip lower for the broader benchmark, which has gained 11.2% so far this month. 

Earlier this week, a composite reading for IHS Markit's November purchasing manager's index jumped nearly a full point from last month to 57.7, the biggest increase in more than three years and well above the 50 mark that typically indicates economic growth.

The reading, as well as solid expectations for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, a red-hot housing market and improving jobless claims data, suggests the world's biggest economy is holding onto gains from last quarter despite a lack of fiscal stimulus from Congress and renewed monetary support from the Federal Reserve - as well as the relentless rise in coronavirus infections that have triggered lockdowns in key cities around the country.