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Economy | Biotech Blog

New Jobless claims number better than expected.

19 Mar 09 | Filed in Economy with 0 Comments

The Department of Labor released the jobless claims figures this morning and for a change, they were better than expected. Continuing claims did set a new record for the eighth straight week, but that is a lagging indicator, and it will take several more weeks of lower jobless claims before that figure will be affected.

Requests for unemployment insurance dropped to a seasonally adjusted 646,000 from the previous weeks number of 658,000. Analysts had expected the number to rise.

There have been some other encouraging improvements in the economy recently, such as upticks in retail sales and housing starts. Also the Conference Board’s monthly forecast of economic activity fell 0.4%, less than the 0.6% that had been expected. That index is designed to forecast economic activity in the next three to six months.

The states with the highest number of new claims included Indiana with an increase of more than 5,500 layoffs with Pennsylvania, Texas, Florida and Michigan close behind. The biggest drop in new claims occured in New York, which had 11,218 fewer claims, followed by Connecticut, Tennessee, California and Oregon.

German economy shows small sign of a rebound.

17 Mar 09 | Filed in Economy with 0 Comments

With all the gloom and doom on TV lately it is good to see some good news. In Europe the doomsday predictions have been even worse than stateside. Also, it is important to the US economy that the Europeans turn around their situation, and these are the first figures I’ve seen out of Europe that are positive.

In Germany there is a survey called the ZEW survery. The survey gives economists a snapshot of the German economy. In March its indicator for economic sentiment rose by 2.3 points to a minus 3.5. It had been at minus 5.8 points in January. It is still low by historical standards–the average figure is 26.2 points. But this is the fifth consecutive month that that figure has risen.

In its monthly report, ZEW said the rise in the economic indicator suggested experts were more optimistic about the prospects for the German economy than they had been before. The German economy is the largest in Europe, and they are also the largest exporter. If their economy continues to improve, so too will the rest of Europe, and it will also help the American economy as well. Is the tide getting ready to turn?

New employment figures for week ending January 24 released by Department of Labor.

29 Jan 09 | Filed in Economy with 0 Comments

For the week ending January 24, the advanced figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 588,000, an increase of 3,000 from the previous weeks revised figure of 585,000. The 4 week moving average was 542,500, an increase of 24,250 from the previous weeks moving average of 518,250.

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending January 17 by state were Florida (+6,500), California (+1,826), Puerto Rico (+1,308), Texas (+537), and Massachusetts (+86).

The largest decreases in initial claims for the week ending January 17 were in Michigan (-33,365), North Carolina   (-25,516), Georgia (-12,635), New York (-12,432), and Pennsylvania (-10,077).

Number of new unemployment claims jumped up more than expected last week.

22 Jan 09 | Filed in Economy with 0 Comments

The Labor Department reported this morning that Initial Jobless Benefit Claims rose to a seasonally adjusted 589,000 in the week ending January 17, up from 527,000 the previous week. Wall Street had been expecting 540,000 new claims. But then again, when is the last time Wall Street got something right anyhow.

However, the increase in claims was at least partly due to a backlog of claims that had been created when computers in several states crashed due to an unusually large number of applications the prior week, so todays numbers may be artificially high.

A better and more reliable indicator, the 4 week moving average, was 519,250, up slightly from the previous weeks figure of 518,000. The figures coming out over the next couple weeks will probably give us a more accurate picture of where the economy is headed.

New jobless claims increased more than expected in the last week.

15 Jan 09 | Filed in Economy with 0 Comments

First time requests for unemployment insurance jumped up to 524,000 for the week ending January 10 from an upwardly revised number of 470,000 the previous week. The four week moving average of new claims fell by 8,000 to 518,000 for the previous week.

We have now had two weeks in a row of increasing jobless claims after having had several weeks of declining numbers the weeks before that. It is too early to tell for sure if the trend has started to increase again, but any increase is not healthy.

We can only hope that with the new President coming on line soon, that he and Congress will move quickly to stimulate the economy. If they fail to act, I can picture the stock market going into a downward spiral again very quickly. I have had my money back in the market for about two months now and have done pretty well, but I am starting to get a bit edgy. I already hear the politicians starting to spar on this and Obama hasn’t even taken office yet. Let’s hope that Nero doesn’t start fiddling while Rome burns.

Department of Labor Releases more employment figures.

09 Jan 09 | Filed in Economy with 0 Comments

The US Department of Labor reports that 524,000 jobs were lost in December and the unemployment rate jumped from 6.7% to 7.2%, the highest since 1993. Analysts had been predicting a loss of from 525,000 to 550,000 jobs.

My recent prediction was not quite as good. I had expected the figures to be slightly lower than they came out as. My crystal ball must have clouded up over the weekend. Hopefully it is still under warrenty.

Department of Labor Unemployment Claim figures by state

08 Jan 09 | Filed in Economy with 0 Comments

The previous post talks about the national figures which are important as an investor. But if you live in say California, you are mostly interested in what is happening there. Following is a breakdown by state of new job claims. This information is more relevant to Joe the Plumber.





State Supplied Comment



Fewer layoffs in the construction, trade, service, and manufacturing industries.



Fewer layoffs in the trade, service, and finance industries.



Fewer layoffs in the construction, trade, service, and manufacturing industries, and agriculture.



No comment.



Fewer layoffs in the manufacturing industry.



No comment.



No comment.



Fewer layoffs in the construction and manufacturing industries.



Fewer layoffs in the trade and textile industries.



Fewer layoffs in the construction, trade, and service industries.



No comment.



Fewer layoffs in the trade, service, and manufacturing industries.



No comment.



Fewer layoffs in the construction, furniture, and transportation industries.



Fewer layoffs in the service and manufacturing industries.



No comment.



No comment.



No comment.



Fewer layoffs in the manufacturing industry.



No comment.



Fewer layoffs in the construction, trade, and manufacturing industries.


Department of Labor announces new unemployment claims figures.

08 Jan 09 | Filed in Economy with 0 Comments

The US Department of Labor reports that for the week ending January 3, the number for initial jobless claims was 467,000, a decrease of 24,000 or a decrease of 4.88% from the previous week. Economists had been predicting the numbers to increase.

The moving average was 525,750, a decrease of 27,000 from the previous weeks moving average of 552,750, which coincidentally was a decrease of 4.88% as well.

Analysts are predicting a net loss of 500,000 jobs in December and the employmet rate to spike to 7% from its current 6.7%. I’m not a financial guru, but I have been noticing that the analysts pretty consistantly have been overestimating the numbers for the last month or month and a half or so. I suspect they are in CYA mode. (Cover your Arse) As a result, I will go out on a limb and predict that the number of jobs lost will be something under 500K and the unemployment rate will go up, but not to 7%. These numbers will be announced tomorrow morning. 

If I’m right I’ll pat myself on the back. If I’m wrong, I’ll pretend I never said it.

Number of newly laid off workers signing up for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week.

31 Dec 08 | Filed in Economy with 0 Comments

The number of newly laid off workers fell by a seasonally adjusted 94,000 to 492,000 for the week ending December 27. Workers continuing to draw unemployment benefits increased to 4.5 million for the week ending December 20.

The more important 4 week moving average was 552,250, a smaller decrease of 5,750 from the previous weeks 558,000. This number is a better barometer of unemployment because it is the average over a 4 week period, versus a one week period. It shows the trend more accurately, since figures from week to week can vary dramatically.

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending December 20 were California, up 20,866, Kentucky, up 13,337, Michigan, up 8,160, Missouri up 7,091 and Indiana up 6,795.

The largest drops in initial claims for the same week were in Massachusetts, down 4,016, Georgia, down 3,525, New Jersey down 1,866, Tennessee down 1,649 and Illinois down 1,194.

I do have a bone to pick with Yahoo. I noticed in their coverage of these figures they stated that “That was the most since early December, 1982 when the country was emerging from a deep recession.” That is like comparing apples with basketballs. I checked the US census. The population in 1980 was just over 226 milion. The population in the 2000 census was over 281 million. Estimates of todays population are approaching 310 million. On top of that, the percentage of our population in the workforce, probably due to the greying of America has been going up. From 62% in 1980 to 65.3% in 1990 to 68% in the 2000 census. Estimates today are in the 70% range for the percentage of citizens in the workforce.

So the workforce in 1980 was about 140 million workers versus an estimated 217 million today, an increase of well over 50%. So to say the numbers of newly unemployed today are equal to those in 1982 and try to make the comparison that our situations are the same, borders on the ridiculous. It would be more accurate to say that we are only half as bad off as we were in 1982. No wonder people are so fearful, with Chicken Little screaming the sky is falling.

Now I’m no Pollyanna. This has been a scary several months. The stock market is well off of its peak of 13,338.20. It sunk as low as 7392.27. Unemployment is at 6.7%, well above the 5% that is considered the “norm” or full employment. But I do see some good trends here. While you read about big layoffs here and there because that’s what sells newspapers, you don’t hear about any of the hiring that is going on. And the slight improvement in new jobless claims is helpful. The stock market is up from its bottom to the last time I checked at 8734.66, up 18% from the bottom.

We still have a long ways to go, and there are a lot of things that could happen to muck up the works in the future, but for the time being, I am getting more optimistic. I put all my money back into my 401K over a month ago, and it is actually looking much better. Up about 15% from where I had gotten out. Maybe I won’t have to work until I’m 103 after all.

Mixed bag on Research funding for 2009.

23 Dec 08 | Filed in Economy with 0 Comments

While FY 2009 will most likely not be a banner year for research funding, it may not be the unmitigated disaster that some have feared.

It appears from what we have seen so far is that funding for the NIH and Stem Cell research should be on the rise. Current drafts of the stimulus bill call for an increase of $1.2 to 1.7 billion in NIH funding for the coming year. That would be an increase in the 4 to 6% range.

However, offsetting those increases will most likely be fewer dollars for research at universities and pharmaceutical companies. Endowments at most major universities have been hit hard by the stock market collapse, and while the market has come back a bit, endowments are nowhere near where they were before. So University administrations will in most cases look very hard at their research budgets, especially in the first half of 2009. It is possible that if the stock market rallies the second half of the year as I’m expecting, research funding at Universities could gradually improve.

At the same time, pharmaceuticals are going to be hit with the double whammy of many established drugs coming off patent and the political ramafications of a Democratic administration looking to reduce the cost of drugs for the average American.

The rapid growth of CRO’s and generic drug companies will help the pharmaceutical research numbers to a certain extent, but not enough to completely offset the reductions at the traditional pharmaceuticals.

For companies selling equipment, consumables and software for life science research, while I don’t see a disaster in the making, they will have to scramble to increase their sales by any significant amounts. Companies selling “commodity” products may take a hit. Companies with a unique, highly sought after new technology may have better luck.

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