The COVID-19 surge pushed a measure of weekly layoffs to a three-month high, and the volume of home sales fell for the first month in four, reports showed Thursday.
Here’s a quick look at the most significant economic indicators of the day and what they tell us.
Initial Jobless Claims
- 287,000 people initiated claims for unemployment insurance last week, the most for any week since October and 55,000 more than the week before, according to the Department of Labor.
- While the number of claims in a week topped 6 million at the height of COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, it finally reached more typical pre-pandemic levels late last year, dropping as low as 188,000. Why are they moving in the wrong direction again? The recent surge in COVID-19 cases is triggering more layoffs and keeping sick people home, economists said. And that means the numbers will likely drop again once the wave ends, they said.
- The monthly volume of home sales dropped for the first time in four months in December, most likely because there was hardly anything to buy, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Sales of existing homes fell 4.6% to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 6.18 million as the number of homes for sale plummeted 18% to the lowest since at least 1999, when the association started keeping track.
- The December decline likely reflects that there’s been so little on the market and that prices have risen so much, not that there is less interest in buying a home, economists at NAR and other firms said. And now that mortgage rates are rising so quickly, homebuyers have even more challenges, they said.
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