Jobless Claims Fall Again, More New Houses Are Started

What Thursday’s Economic Reports Tell Us

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Jobless claims continued their downward trend this week to reach their lowest point this year, and builders began work on more new houses than last week.  

Here’s a quick look at Thursday’s reports and what they tell us.

Jobless Claims

  • First-time claims for unemployment insurance dropped by 15,000 to 214,000 through the week of March 12, marking the third time in four weeks that claims have dropped, the Labor Department reported. The drop brings unemployment claims back to levels not seen since before the pandemic. 
  • It’s the fewest weekly jobless claims this year. Economists said it's another sign of a tight labor market, where employers are competing for a smaller pool of workers. Last month unemployment declined to 3.8%, still slightly higher than the pre-pandemic rate of 3.5%. Economists forecast that jobless claims and unemployment would continue to fall into the summer. 

Housing Starts 

  • Homebuilders picked up the pace in February, getting started on homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.8 million, a 6.8% improvement over January and a fresh high since 2006, according to data from the Census Bureau.
  • The brisk pace of housing starts is welcome news for homebuyers, who are seeing record low numbers of for-sale listings and increasingly unaffordable prices. How quickly houses can actually be completed is another story, economists said. The 1.6 million homes under construction were a fresh high since 1973, and chronic supply shortages have contributed to a record backlog—the 273,000 homes authorized but not yet started in February also hit a new high in data going back to 1999.

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