The figures on initial unemployment claims have reached such an encouraging point that new Labor Department reports can show an increase, but the overall level can remain below a key threshold.
The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week rose by 12,000 to 293,000, but initial claims continue to hover near an eight-year bottom amid a very low rate of layoffs, new government data showed. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected claims to rise to a seasonally adjusted 300,000 in the week ended Sept. 20.The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, fell by 1,250 to 298,500, the Labor Department said Thursday. The monthly figure offers a better look at underlying trends in the jobs market.
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, and when the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are being created rather quickly. At this point, we’ve been below 330,000 in 25 of the last 28 weeks. (We’ve also been below 300,000 in 6 of the last 10 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.