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Economy in Brief

Initial Jobless Insurance Claims Dip
by Tom Moeller March 4, 2004

Initial claims for jobless insurance fell 7,000 (-2.0%) to 345,000 last week, again matching Consensus expectations. That reversed the prior week's rise (revised up slightly).

During the last ten years there has been a 77% (negative) correlation between the level of initial claims and the three-month change in non-farm payrolls.

The four-week moving average of initial claims fell to 352,250 (-13.8% y/y).

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance were unchanged from the prior week's level that was revised lower.

The insured rate of unemployment was unchanged at 2.4% and the prior week's level was revised down.

Unemployment Insurance (000s) 2/28/04 2/21/04 Y/Y 2003 2002 2001
Initial Claims 345.0 352.0 -20.9% 403 404 406
Continuing Claims -- 3,091 -10.9% 3,535 3,575 3,022
Factory Inventories Up Again
by Tom Moeller March 4, 2004

Factory inventories rose in January for the third month in four. The 0.2% m/m increase was hardly strong but recent monthly gains pulled the y/y change in inventories to -1.1% versus rates of decline exceeding 7% two years ago.

The swing to inventory accumulation from decumulation necessitated increases in factory output.

Factory orders fell 0.5% m/m reflecting a sharp 2.3% decline in durable goods orders. that was revised from the advance report of a 1.8% decline. Orders for nondurable goods rose 1.6% as petroleum orders (which equal shipments) jumped 5.1%.

Factory shipments rose 0.5% but gains amongst industries were limited.

Factory Survey (NAICS) Jan Dec Y/Y 2003 2002 2001
Inventories 0.2% 0.1% -1.1% -1.3% -1.8% -6.1%
New Orders -0.5% 1.8% 6.5% 3.7% -1.9% -6.7%
Shipments 0.5% 2.1% 6.2% 2.6% -2.0% -5.4%
Unfilled Orders -0.1% 0.5% 4.5% 4.2% -6.1% -5.9%
4Q U.S. Productivity Growth Little Revised
by Tom Moeller March 4, 2004

Non-farm labor productivity grew 2.6% last quarter, little changed from the initial estimate of 2.7% growth. Consensus expectations had been for 2.6% growth.

Hours worked by all persons (employment times hours) were little revised, up 1.5% (-0.3% y/y) and output growth also was little revised at 4.1% (5.1% y/y) versus 10.4% growth in 3Q.

Unit labor costs fell 0.4% versus the initial estimate of a 1.3% decline. The back-to-back annual cost declines in 2003 and 2002 were a record. Compensation growth in 4Q was revised up.

Manufacturing sector productivity growth of 4.8% (5.2% y/y) was unrevised. Unit labor costs in the factory sector fell 2.0% (-0.6% y/y).

Non-farm Business Sector (SAAR) 4Q '03 (Revised 4Q '03 (Prelim.) 3Q '03 Y/Y 2003 2002 2001
Output per Hour 2.6% 2.7% 9.5% 5.4% 4.2% 4.9% 2.1%
Compensation 2.2% 1.3% 3.3% 3.6% 2.9% 2.2% 3.9%
Unit Labor Costs -0.4% -1.3% -5.6% -1.7% -1.2% -2.5% 1.7%
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