A glimmer of good less-bad-than-usual news on the labor front today, as initial unemployment claims fell to 434,000, a fair bit better than the consensus estimate of 458,000.
In the week ending Oct. 23, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 434,000, a decrease of 21,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 455,000. The 4-week moving average was 453,250, a decrease of 5,500 from the previous week's revised average of 458,750.
While we're still well above the breakeven level (meaning things are still getting worse, just less quickly), media boosters are quick to point out we that things haven't been getting worse this slowly since July.
And that's true...
Initial Unemployment Claims (blue) and 4-Week Average (red)
... but before we pop the champagne and begin to second guess our increasingly unified national condemnation of the Keynesian remedies that have helped us get here, let's remember that anything north of the x-axis in this chart indicates not recovery, not even stasis at the current miserable condition, but still further erosion in the job market.
There's another thing that hasn't happened since July: the Labor Department not upwardly revising their initial weekly unemployment estimate the following week.
After 14 consecutive weeks of lowball estimates, color me skeptical that the dip in that blue line will remain so steep when today's figure is revised, 36 hours after polls close.
Chart Of the Day
Dems losing women as a voting bloc would be a rare defeat indeed.
Rare, as in unprecedented.
Harry Reid Takes "Help America Vote Act" Quite Literally; Update: So Does NC
Some voters in Boulder City complained on Monday that their ballot had been cast before they went to the polls, raising questions about Clark County's electronic voting machines.
Voter Joyce Ferrara said when they went to vote for Republican Sharron Angle, her Democratic opponent, Sen. Harry Reid's name was already checked.
Ferrara said she wasn't alone in her voting experience. She said her husband and several others voting at the same time all had the same thing happen.
"Something's not right," Ferrara said. "One person that's a fluke. Two, that's strange. But several within a five minute period of time -- that's wrong."
A Craven County [North Carolina] voter says he had a near miss at the polls on Thursday when an electronic voting machine completed his straight-party ticket for the opposite of what he intended.
Sam Laughinghouse of New Bern said he pushed the button to vote Republican in all races, but the voting machine screen displayed a ballot with all Democrats checked. He cleared the screen and tried again with the same result, he said. Then he asked for and received help from election staff.
“They pushed it twice and the same thing happened,” Laughinghouse said. “That was four times in a row. The fifth time they pushed it and the Republicans came up and I voted.
Given the direction of the machine-based vote shifting, expect to see this dubbed "affirmative reenfranchisement" of tantrum-throwing low information voters, aimed to redress their tendency to vote against their own self interest.
Strategy Room 11-12
I'll be on Strategy Room at FoxNews.com today from 11-12 to talk midterms.
American Civics Exchange: Come Join Us On Facebook
As ardent readers will recall, my day job involves facilitating the trading of political risk through a web-based futures market, the American Civics Exchange.
And as we zero in on our launch of real-money trading, we've also opened up a new Facebook storefront.
Please stop in and see us or, if you simply can't be bothered, toss us a "like" below.
The Most Encouraging Bit Of Political News I've Read In 2 Years
If only this fledgling awakening had taken place a couple trillion dollars ago.
(HT: Hot Air headlines)
Strategy Room 11-12
I'll be on Strategy Room at FoxNews.com today from 11-12.
In the week ending Oct. 9, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 462,000, an increase of 13,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 449,000. The 4-week moving average was 459,000, an increase of 2,250 from the previous week's revised average of 456,750.
Economists were expecting a milder increase to 450,000. Instead, we're back above the level where we began the year and the 4-week average has reversed the moderate downward trend it had managed over the prior six weeks.
Initial Unemployment Claims (blue) and 4-week Average (red)
If All the Other Attorneys General Jumped Off a Bridge, Would You?
Top legal officers of all 50 states opened a joint investigation into home foreclosures, saying they will seek an immediate halt to any improper practices at banks and mortgage companies.
The states will conduct a coordinated inquiry into whether banks and loan servicers used false documents and signatures to justify hundreds of thousands of foreclosures. The group intends to establish independent monitoring, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who is leading the group, said today in a statement.
The National Association of Attorneys General announced earlier today that 49 states would be participating in the investigation, with Alabama the holdout. Alabama later joined the probe, even though “no violations of Alabama law have been alleged at this time,” Attorney General Troy King said in an e- mailed statement.
What better way to choke out a fledgling housing recovery than to mount a 50-state campaign to beat up on banks and other housing lenders, heroically constraining their ability to conduct business?
Obama Goes To the Head Of the Class
For sporting his first glint of near-comprehension that something about this ballyhooed Keynesianism might not be all it's cracked up to be.
Strategy Room 11-12
I'll be on Strategy Room at FoxNews.com today from 11-12.
Gallup's analysis released yesterday appears to be correct.
With today's monthly emlpoyment report showing payrolls dwindling 95,000 in September (declining for the 4th consecutive month), it's hard to accept the unchanged stated unemployment rate of 9.6% as terribly reliable. Gallup's estimate of the actual unemployment rate at the end of September is 10.1%.
Not underemployment, which it pegs at 18.8%, but plain old unemployment.
Gallup noted that most of September's deterioration came late in the month, which wouldn't be captured by the government's reading.
To fully appreciate the dismal nature of the labor market, despite the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars ostensibly aimed at propping it up, consider the monthly change in total non-farm payrolls during and after the recession, and how unmistakably the trend illustrates an economic recovery that - while never particularly robust - utterly stalled right around the time the bulk of the stimulus went out.
Monthly Change in Non-farm Payrolls (thousands, seasonally adjusted)
Far from ushering in the heralded Recovery Summer, that unprecedentedly large forcible reallocation of resources extinguished a feeble recovery and sent us plunging toward a double dip recession.
If you back out the impact of temporary census workers (whch peaked at over 500,000 in May), true job creation likely never poked above the breakeven line, suggesting the labor market may not have entered recovery territory at all.
Consider this a moment of (relative) repose between two days of ugly employment news.
In the week ending Oct. 2, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 445,000, a decrease of 11,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 456,000. The 4-week moving average was 455,750, a decrease of 3,000 from the previous week's revised average of 458,750.
Economists were expecting a slight uptick, rather than a decline, and this marks the first time we've been under 450,000 since July, so this report clearly could've been worse.
The 4-week average is even starting to show a discernible downward (if painfully slowly so) trend.
On the other hand, we're still more than 100,000 above where we need to be just to break even, so we're still suffering a meaningfully worsening job market. That was on display yesterday, when ADP released their monthly payroll data, showing not a net creation of 18,000 private sector jobs, but a swing to a loss of 39,000.
And now, we brace ourselves for tomorrow's monthly employment report from the feds. Job creation in August was already ugly, with nonfarm payrolls falling more than 50,000 (public sector layoffs more than offsetting mild private sector job growth). If the government numbers see month-over-month degradation similar to ADP's, tomorrow morning may be an unpleasant one.
In the wake of today's mildly encouraging surprise, stock futures were flat (following a big two-day run). I wouldn't expect flatness before tomorrow's open if we see the kind of report I'm expecting.
I Might Agree With Robert Gibbs' Shocking, Laughable Assertion
Aiming to tamp down rumors of a possible Obama-Clinton ticket in 2012, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs uttered something remarkably quizzical, which may, lamentably, be quite accurate.
"It's not a discussion" within the White House, Gibbs said, adding that the president believes that "the decision to pick Joe Biden is one of the best decisions that he has made in the past few years."
The report, he said, "is a bit of a head-scratcher."
White House Unveils "New"
Campaign Governing Strategy
Xeroxing a page from the Clinton post-midterm playbook and scribbling their own names into the header, Obama administration officials suggest that the President will strike a decidedly less partisan pose during the divided government portion of his term in office.
President Barack Obama, facing at best narrower Democratic majorities in Congress next year, is likely to break up his remaining legislative priorities into smaller bites in hope of securing at least some piecemeal proposals on energy, climate change, immigration and terrorism policy, White House officials say.
"We weren't able to do a lot of those other things even with this Congress. That obviously calls for a new approach," one White House official said.
The shift likely provides significant comfort for any constituents who only fuzzily recall the decidedly post-partisan pose struck during Obama's campaign.