The level itself is not alarming, but we hoped to see initial unemployment claims moving away from the 300,000 threshold, not moving towards it.
The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment-insurance benefits rose by 12,000 to 294,000 in the week that ended April 11, hitting the highest tally in six weeks and signaling some pickup in the pace of layoffs, according to Labor Department data released Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected claims for regular state unemployment-insurance benefits to hold steady at 281,000 in the most recent weekly data. The four-week average of new claims rose 250 to 282,750.
To reiterate the point I make every Thursday morning, it’s worth remembering that week-to-week results can vary widely, and it’s best not to read too much significance into any one report.
In terms of metrics, when jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it’s considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape. At this point, we’ve been below 300,000 in 25 of the last 31 weeks.
Above you’ll find the chart showing weekly, initial unemployment claims going back to the beginning of 2007. (Remember, unlike the monthly jobs chart, a lower number is good news.) For context, I’ve added an arrow to show the point at which President Obama’s Recovery Act began spending money.