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On The Money: Weekly jobless claims fall to lowest level since lockdowns | Retail sales surge in March | Dow, S&P hit new records

On The Money: Weekly jobless claims fall to lowest level since lockdowns | Retail sales surge in March | Dow, S&P hit new records
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Happy Thursday and welcome back to On The Money, where we’re celebrating the rebounding Nepalese rhino population. I’m Sylvan Lane, and here’s your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.

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THE BIG DEAL—Weekly jobless claims fall to lowest level since lockdowns: Weekly jobless claims plunged by 200,000 applications to the lowest level since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic more than a year ago, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

  • In the week ending April 10, roughly 576,000 Americans filed initial claims for unemployment benefits, plummeting from a revised total of 769,000 in the previous week. 
  • Last week’s total was the lowest since the week ending March 14, 2020, when Americans filed 256,000 initial claims for jobless benefits as entire swaths of the economy began to shut down.

While weekly jobless claims data can be thrown off by fraud and backlogs — two significant issues during the pandemic — last week’s sharp decline is another encouraging sign of the U.S. economy beginning to rapidly recover. Not only can we see the light at the tunnel, but it’s getting a lot brighter. I break it down here.

How far we’ve come: Weekly claims skyrocketed to a peak of 3.3 million during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which wiped out 22 million jobs and forced thousands of businesses to shutter. 

  • The economy has since recovered more than 13 million of the jobs lost to the pandemic, though millions remain unable to find work or start looking for it due to pandemic-related setbacks or responsibilities.
  • Last week's decline brings jobless claims considerably closer to their pre-pandemic average of roughly 200,000 per week and further from the devastating heights seen at the start of the pandemic.

"We may still see volatility in the weeks ahead. However, we expect the trend in claims to be downward as the economic recovery gains momentum," wrote Nancy Vanden Houten and Gregory Daco of Oxford Economics, who projected the U.S. to add another 6 million jobs before the end of 2021.

Retail sales surge 9.8 percent in March, spurred by stimulus: The weekly jobless claims were just the start of a strong day of economic data. Retail sales in March rose 9.8 percent as $1,400 stimulus checks were issued, the weather improved and vaccination rates increased.

The figure, as reported by the Commerce Department, was well above the 6.1 percent economists expected, and was a return to form after major storms in February led to a 3 percent drop. That figure was revised upward to 2.7 percent. Niv has more here.

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The combination of plunging jobless claims and soaring retail sales drove the Dow Jones Industrial Average above 34,000 points for the first time in history. Here’s the breakdown from Niv.

 

LEADING THE DAY

Advocates hammer Biden over landlords defying eviction ban: President BidenJoe BidenWarren calls for US to support ceasefire between Israel and Hamas UN secretary general 'deeply disturbed' by Israeli strike on high rise that housed media outlets Nation's largest nurses union condemns new CDC guidance on masks MORE is under fire from housing advocates who say his administration is turning a blind eye as landlords seek to boot tens of thousands of cash-strapped renters from their homes despite a nationwide eviction freeze.

  • Tenant rights groups say the Department of Justice (DOJ) has yet to file a single criminal charge for violations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) eviction moratorium, which carries penalties of up to $200,000 and a year in jail.
  • Enacted in September as a public health measure, the CDC order aims to mitigate the spread of coronavirus by helping financially distressed tenants remain in their homes, instead of forcing them into homeless shelters or other crowded living spaces.

Since then, however, the federal eviction protections have steadily eroded. 

“It’s getting weaker as time goes on,” said Isaac Sturgill, an attorney at Legal Aid of North Carolina. “People are figuring out more and more ways around it, and landlords are getting more and more emboldened to ignore it.”

The Hill’s John Kruzel and Rebecca Beitsch tell us what’s going on here.

 

Lawmakers launch bipartisan caucus on SALT deduction: A bipartisan group of House members from high-tax states on Thursday launched a caucus calling for the removal of the $10,000 limit on the state and local tax deductions (SALT).

Roughly 30 lawmakers from New York, New Jersey and California are pressing to include repeal of the cap in infrastructure legislation, and many have vowed to oppose an eventual bill if their demand isn’t satisfied.

“It is high time that Congress reinstates the state and local tax deduction, so we can get more dollars back into the pockets of so many struggling families, especially as we recover from this pandemic,” Rep. Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerFinancial market transactions should not be taxed or restricted Manchin on infrastructure: 'We're gonna find a bipartisan pathway forward' House moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill MORE (D-N.J.), one of the chairs of the caucus, said during a press conference.

The arguments:

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  • Most Republicans are supportive of the cap, which was imposed through the 2017 tax cut law, saying it helps to prevent the federal tax code from subsidizing higher state taxes. They also note that most people received tax cuts under Trump’s law even in high-tax states.
  • But many Democrats, as well as some Republicans from high-tax states, are strongly opposed to the cap, arguing that it hurts their residents and makes it harder for their states to provide robust services.

The caucus, however, doesn’t include one of the most influential and certainly the most prominent Democratic members of the New York congressional delegation: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezWarren calls for US to support ceasefire between Israel and Hamas The Memo: Lawmakers on edge after Greene's spat with Ocasio-Cortez Sanders: Netanyahu has cultivated 'racist nationalism' MORE.

"I don't think that we should be holding the infrastructure package hostage for a 100-percent full repeal on SALT, especially in the case of a full repeal," Ocasio-Cortez told reporters. "Personally, I can't stress how much that I believe that is a giveaway to the rich."

The Hill’s Naomi Jagoda explains here.

 

ON TAP TOMORROW: The Hill hosts a panel entitled “Responsible Innovation for the Planet & Economy” with Dr. M Sanjayan, CEO, Conservation International; Rep. Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerFive takeaways on the House's return to budget earmarks Lawmakers say companies need to play key role in sustainability On The Money: Weekly jobless claims fall to lowest level since lockdowns | Retail sales surge in March | Dow, S&P hit new records MORE (D-VA), Chair, Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee; and Rep. Garret GravesGarret Neal GravesGOP sees opportunity to knock Biden amid rising gas prices McCarthy unveils House GOP task forces, chairs House Republicans kick off climate forum ahead of White House summit MORE (R-LA), Ranking Member, Select Committee on the Climate Crisis at 3 p.m.

 

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GOOD TO KNOW

 

ODDS AND ENDS

  • The U.S. and Russia entered a new phase of heightened tensions Thursday after President Biden announced punishing sanctions over cyberattacks, election interference and threats against U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
  • Unions and labor advocates with high hopes that President Biden would help deliver on major priorities like raising wages and increasing worker power have few if any concrete victories to point to as Biden approaches 100 days in office.