In the late spring and early summer, the Labor Department reports on initial unemployment claims have been surprisingly stable, with minor swings in either direction. Today, for example, showed a slight improvement over last week.
The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits in the second week of June fell slightly and returned close to a postrecession low. Initial jobless claims declined by 6,000 to 312,000 in the week ended June 14, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected claims to total 310,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis.The average of new claims over the past month dropped by 3,750 to 311,750, just a hair above a seven-year low. The monthly figure smooths out the jumpiness in the weekly report and offers a better look at underlying trends in the labor 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 13 of the last 16 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.
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Jobless claims edge lower, average remains low