Going into this morning, economists projected a slight improvement in initial unemployment claims, but the new figures from the Labor Department were far better than expected.
The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week fell to a nearly seven-year low of 300,000, a sign the labor market might be experiencing a spring revival. Initial claims in the seven days ended April 5 sank by 32,000 from a revised 332,000 in the prior week, the Labor Department said Thursday…. Economists polled by MarketWatch expected claims to total a seasonally adjusted 320,000.The average of new claims over the past month dropped by 4,750 to 316,250, marking the second lowest read since the end of the recession.
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 340,000 in 12 of the last 14 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.