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Economy in Brief

Jobless Claims Lowest Since October 2000
by Tom Moeller May 6, 2004

Initial claims for jobless insurance fell 25,000 last week to 315,000, the lowest level since October 2000. Consensus expectations had been for a decline to 338,000 claims. Claims during the prior week were revised up slightly.

The 4-week moving average of initial claims fell slightly to 343,250 (-21.1% y/y).

Continuing claims for unemployment insurance plunged 69,000 (2.3%) and the prior week's slight increase was revised to a slight decline.

The insured rate of unemployment fell to 2.3% from 2.4%. This unemployment rate averaged 2.8% during 2002 and 2003.

Unemployment Insurance (000s) 5/01/04 4/24/04 Y/Y 2003 2002 2001
Initial Claims    315 340 -25.5% 403 404 406
Continuing Claims    -- 2,945 -19.0% 3,533 3,573 3,023
1Q04 U.S. Productivity Growth Firm
by Tom Moeller May 6, 2004

Non-farm labor productivity grew 3.5% last quarter, slightly firmer than Consensus expectations for 3.0% growth. Year-to-year growth in productivity of 5.4% remained near the highest level since the early 1960s.

Output rose 4.9% (5.8% y/y) and hours worked by all persons (employment times hours) rose 1.3% (0.4% y/y).

Unit labor costs grew a slight 0.5% as compensation growth rose to 4.0% from 2.5% in 4Q. It was the first rise in unit labor costs since 1Q03.

Productivity in the manufacturing sector grew 3.1% (5.3% y/y), the weakest quarterly growth rate since 2Q03. Unit labor costs in the factory sector rose 2.0% (-0.4% y/y), the first gain since 2Q03.

Non-farm Business Sector (SAAR) 1Q '04 (Prelim) 4Q '03 (Final) Y/Y 2003 2002 2001
Output per Hour 3.5% 2.5% 5.4% 4.4% 4.9% 2.2%
Compensation 4.0% 2.5% 4.0% 3.4% 2.3% 4.0%
Unit Labor Costs 0.5% 0.0% -1.3% -0.9% -2.5% 1.7%
U.S. Light Vehicle Sales Disappointing
by Tom Moeller May 6, 2004

Unit sales of light vehicles fell 1.6% (0.0% y/y) in April to 16.41M following m/m gains during the prior two months. Consensus expectations were for sales of 16.7M.

Car sales slipped 4.7% to 7.36M to the lowest level since January. Sales of light trucks firmed 1.1% following a very slight March gain.

Domestic light vehicle sales fell 1.6% m/m to 13.10M (+0.2% y/y). Imported vehicle sales edged 1.5% lower to 3.31M (-0.6% y/y).

Imports' share of the US market for new vehicles in April held at 20.2% versus 19.7% during 2003.

Light Vehicle Sales (SAAR, Mil.Units) April Mar Y/Y 2003 2002 2001
Total 16.41 16.68 0.0% 16.69 16.81 17.26
  Autos 7.36 7.72 -2.6% 7.63 8.07 8.48
  Trucks 9.06 8.96 2.2% 9.06 8.74 8.78
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