Expectations going into this morning suggested initial unemployment claims would start to inch higher again, but the newly released figures from the Department of Labor continue to show the opposite.
The number of new applications for unemployment benefits fell by 5,000 to 305,000 in the week ended Sept. 21, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected claims to jump to 327,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis. A government official said Labor has been told by California that the state eliminated a backlog of claims that built up after computer-related processing delays. The delays caused the number of initial claims to fall below 300,000 in early September for the first time in more than six years. The average of new claims over the past month, a more reliable gauge than the volatile weekly number, dropped by 7,000 to 308,000. That’s the lowest level since June 2007.
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 10 of the last 11 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.