Readers probably know that among the data releases du jour was the Labor Department reporting an increase in unemployment claims to a 27 month high, a level not seen since Hurricane Katrina.
Blogger knzn made note of an item mentioned in passing in some news reports, namely a sharp fall in the employment index maintained by job search site Monster Worldwide:
Just as I finished leaving a comment (not yet accepted as of this writing) on Paul Krugman’s blog arguing that UI claims for January remain on balance in the “good news” column and that the personal consumption report is not bad news given what we already knew about retail sales, I learned that the Monster Employment Index (which measures online help wanted advertising) fell by a whopping 9 points (from 169 to 160) in January, after falling an even more whopping (but less surprising given the usual seasonal pattern) 14 points in December and a not so whopping (but still significant because the index has never dropped 3 months in a row before) 5 points in November. That makes a total drop of 28 points, or about 15%, over 3 months. Before December 2007, the index had never fallen by more than 3% over any 3 month period (since it began in October 2003). And note that the 15% drop comes as newspaper help wanted advertising is scraping against an all time low (since 1951, when the Conference Board’s index began, but note that in December, it rose slightly from the all-time low in November).
knzn, normally pretty optimistic, now worries that the signals of economic improvement may have been less telling than they appeared. While not willing to concede that a recession is likely, he has written of 2008 as a year of normal growth.