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Jobless claims back above 8-month average

Weather or not, hiring is stalling

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At this point the pattern is clear: If it’s good news, it's credited to the “recovery” but if it’s bad news, it’s the cold weather.

So for the jobless and retail sales data that came out today, it’s the cold weather.

Initial jobless claims continue to look flat, up 8,000 in the week of Feb. 8 to a higher-than-expected 339,000.

That 339,000 initial jobless claim number brings the jobless claims average back above the eight-month average.

Considering the news of coming layoffs at major retailers and other companies – JC Penney, Sears, Macy’s, Target, Best Buy, Radio Shack, Aeropostale, and Dell – it looks like it’s only going to go up.

But the 4-week average is up for a ninth straight week, to 2.97 million, which is more than 40,000 higher from a month ago.

The unemployment rate for insured workers, which was at 2.1% as recently as November, is at 2.3% for a fifth straight week.

Continuing claims, which are reported with a one-week lag, also look flat, though they did dip 18,000 in data for the February 1 week to 2.953 million.

Today's claims data do not point to any building strength in the labor market, and it’s still hard to see how weak the numbers are because of cold weather because they are seasonally adjusted, which is supposed to account for the weather in the winter.

Finally, with hat tip to Zero Hedge, this chart shows that hiring is way off from where it normally tracks with job changes, suggesting that hiring is much weaker than the conventional spin on the numbers suggests.

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