The Dallas Morning News
Steep drop in jobless claims pushes Dow up
Growing vaccination rates, retail numbers spark recovery hopes
Blockbuster jobs and retail numbers, coupled with growing vaccinations, buoyed hopes Thursday for a robust recovery after more than a year of economic reversals. U.S. stocks soared, lifting the Dow to record heights.
First-time unemployment claims fell sharply last week, to a pandemic low of 576,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That’s down 193,000 from the preceding week’s surprise spike, and an unexpectedly strong showing even as unemployment remains elevated.
Meanwhile, fresh Commerce Department data showed retail sales soared 9.8% in March as stimulus checks hit bank accounts, business restrictions loosened and spring weather arrived. The better-than-expected jump comes on the heels of a 2.7% decline in February.
“Stellar jobless claims plus off-the-charts retail sales packs a positive one two punch and sends strong signals that the economy is full steam ahead toward recovery,” Mike Loewengart, managing director of investment strategy at etrade, said Thursday. “While we haven’t necessarily seen the market move on strong economic beats or misses, it’s certainly a step in the right direction.”
The news, coupled with strong earnings from major banks, spurred a jubilant day of trading on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average surged 305.1 points, 0.9%, to a record-high 34,035.99. The S&P 500 jumped 45.76 points, 1.1%, to settle at 4,170.42, also a record finish. The tech-heavy Nasdaq swelled 180.92 points, 1.3%, to 14,038.76.
“Although 34,000 by itself is just another number, this is a monumental feat when you think back to where we were last year at this time,” said Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist for LPL Financial. “The speed and resiliency of this economic recovery is unlike anything we’ve ever seen and it helps to justify stocks at all-time highs.”
Economists had projected about 710,000 fresh claims for the week ending April 10. The week before, some 719,000 Americans applied for unemployment benefits. Now, claims sit at their lowest level since March 2020, when the pandemic began, but still well above pre-pandemic levels.
“Thursday’s elevated jobless claims data is an important reminder that the labor market has not fully recovered from the Covid-19-driven recession,” said Vanessa Martinez, managing director of The Lerner Group, a Chicagobased wealth management firm. “There are still millions of people unemployed.”