The number of people filing for unemployment rose by 53,000 in the latest week, as Initial Jobless Claims totaled 898,000 during the week ending October 10. Also of note, wholesale inflation was on the rise in September, while inflation at the consumer level remained relatively tame. If wholesale inflation continues to rise, higher producer costs could be passed down to consumers. More about why rising inflation is important to monitor below.
Jobless Claims Report Brought Mixed News
Another 898,000 people filed for unemployment for the first time during the week ending October 10, which is an increase of 53,000 from the previous week. The elevated levels of first-time filers remains a major concern for our economic recovery. However, the number of people continuing to receive benefits did decline by 1.2 million to 10 million people.
The number of people receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) has also improved by roughly 200,000, now totaling 11.2 million. PUA benefits are for people who would not typically be approved for unemployment, like gig workers and contractors. People can also apply for them when their regular unemployment benefits expire.
All in all, the total number of individuals receiving some kind of unemployment benefits is at 25.3 million, which also improved by 200,000. For comparison, there were just 1.4 million people receiving some type of unemployment benefits during this same week last year. The lack of people working will continue to pressure supply chains and could contribute to higher inflation ahead.
It's important to note that California did not report for the second week due to an internal review to try to flush out some fraud they were experiencing, so these numbers once again need to be taken with a grain of salt. California makes up 20% to 25% of claims due to the size of its population, so the numbers could have been much better or much worse. California is expected to report their data in the next weekly report.
Wholesale Inflation Comes In Hot
September's Producer Price Index (PPI) showed that headline wholesale inflation increased 0.4%, which was double market expectations. On a year over year basis, headline PPI also increased from -0.2% to 0.4%.
Core PPI, which strips out volatile food and energy prices, was also up 0.4% and increased from 0.6% to 1.2% year over year. Although the PPI report does not get much respect from the markets, it is hard to ignore the significant increases in wholesale inflation. These numbers are still relatively low, but the pace of increase is sharp.
Part of the reason for the big rise is shipping costs, which have been seeing double digit gains for land, air and sea. If this continues, those higher producer costs can find their way to consumers, causing inflation to rise.
Consumer inflation was still tame in September, however, coming in at 0.2%, per the Consumer Price Index (CPI) report. The year over year reading increased from 1.3% to 1.4%. Core CPI, which also strips out volatile food and energy prices, also increased by 0.2% month over month. On an annual basis, Core CPI remained stable at 1.7%. Consumer inflation readings were held down in part by rents, which make up 40% of the CPI and continue to move lower in many areas due to the pandemic.
Why does rising inflation matter?
Inflation erodes the buying power of a Bond's fixed coupon over time. Home loan rates are tied to Mortgage Bonds, and if Mortgage Bonds worsen or move lower as they often do when inflation heats up, home loan rates can move higher.
Small Businesses Expressed Optimism in September
Despite the ongoing impact of the pandemic, small businesses expressed confidence as the NFIB Small Business Optimism Index rose 3.8 points in September to 104.0, which is the best level since February and historically high. The focal point of the report was those expecting higher selling prices, which jumped by 12 points to 13. This is the most since January and could point to future inflation.
Understandably, the Uncertainty Index increased 2 points to 92, up from 75 in April.
"As parts of the country continue to open, small businesses are seeing some improvements in foot traffic and sales," said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelburg. "However, some small businesses are still struggling financially to operate at full capacity while navigating state and local regulations and are uncertain about what will happen in the future."
In Other News
There was mixed news from the manufacturing sector, as the Empire State Index, which shows the health of manufacturing in the New York region, was reported at 10.5 for October, which was below expectations of 14.5. The Philadelphia region fared better, as the Philadelphia Fed Index was reported at 32.3 for October, above expectations of 14.5.
Lastly, Retail Sales delivered some positive news as they were strong in September, up 1.9% and beating expectations of 0.7%. Removing auto sales, Retail Sales increased by 1.5%, which was also better than estimates. Sales of clothing and accessories led the gains, rising by 11%, while sporting goods, music and books also rose 5.7%.