Labor market dynamics set off by the coronavirus crisis are moving faster than economists can capture with our linear models inside what is a profoundly nonlinear, disease-induced change in the economy.
For the week ending March 28, expect initial jobless claims to show an increase of 3.1 million.
Humility and not hubris is the order of the day for what will be another turbulent week and for the foreseeable future as economic data capture the depression-like shocks that are cascading throughout the economy.
We expect that for the week ending March 28, initial jobless claims will show an increase of 3.1 million when the figures are announced on Thursday. This would imply a two-week total of 6.4 million, in lieu of any upside revisions to the week ending March 21 linked to the inability of the states to accurately process the tsunami of claims for that week.
This implies that the domestic unemployment rate will jump by 4.5 percentage points, to at least 8%, by the time we get to look at the May employment report during the first week of June. We now expect the unemployment rate to jump to 10.5% by mid to late summer.
Turmoil in financial markets began around February 24, well before the March 12 reference week that captures the U.S. March Bureau of Labor Statistics estimate of employment, and we think it was sufficient to cause firms to pull back on hiring. Our forecast for the March employment report, to be announced Friday, is a 65,000 loss in top-line employment and an increase to 3.7% in the unemployment rate.
We expect a 0.2% increase in average hourly earnings on the month and a 3% increase on a year-ago basis. Average hourly earnings peaked at 3.5% on a year-ago basis in February 2019. It will be a number of years before American workers enjoy that type of nominal increase.
The Friday employment report will not capture the increase in initial claims of 3.3 million for the week ending March 21, and it will play no role in the upcoming March jobs estimate.
But the shadow of what has happened and what is to occur inside American labor dynamics will cast a long pall over the economy and drive the policy relief process inside Washington for the remainder of this era.