Initial claims was unambiguously weak, rising to 380k, the highest level since January. The prior week was also revised higher, from 357k to 367k.
The labor department cited no special factors despite it being Easter week; the USVI was the only locale where claims were estimated for the holiday.
The trade deficit fell to its lowest level since October, largely due to an 18% drop in imports from China (Lunar New Year effect) and a drop in oil imports.
The data may push Q1 GDP estimates to as high as 3% but that should not be confused with a pick-up in the underlying strength of the economy.
The stalling out in the claims data last month did a good job of predicting the slowdown in payrolls. Today’s data throws further job market improvement into greater question.