Labor Woes: Weekly Claims vs. Productivity and Labor Costs

worker using torch cutter to cut through metal
worker using torch cutter to cut through metal

We had two reports on the labor situation in America this Thursday. The weekly jobless claims is of course very current, while the report on worker productivity and unit labor costs is a fourth-quarter 2012 reading.

The weekly jobless claims came in 366,000, and Bloomberg had the consensus estimate of 360,000. Last week's preliminary figure was higher at 368,000, after two weeks of lower claims, and that was revised a tad higher to 371,000. We always track the army of unemployed, the continuing claims, which has a one-week lag. That figure rose by 8,000 to 3,224,000.

The nonfarm productivity figure came in worse than expected: -2.0% for the fourth quarter of 2012. Bloomberg had a consensus estimate of -1.3% and a range of -3.5% to +0.8%. Unit labor costs, or wage inflation, came in at 4.5%, when you include the cost of benefits. Bloomberg had a consensus reading of +3.1%, with a range of 1.0% to 5.8%.

Bloomberg's summary on these two reports: Productivity measures the growth of labor efficiency in producing the economy's goods and services. Unit labor costs reflect the labor costs of producing each unit of output.

Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Economy, Labor, Labor & Unions