Jobless claims improve, but Sandy still distorts

Jobless claims improve, but Sandy still distorts
Jobless claims improve, but Sandy still distorts

Hurricane Sandy caused a sharp spike in initial unemployment claims last week, and the new figures from the Department of Labor show that the effects of the storm are still being felt.

Fewer Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the latest week, according to government data Wednesday that still suffered the after-effects of Superstorm Sandy on the Northeast.

The Labor Department reported that new jobless claims fell a seasonally-adjusted 41,000 to 410,000. The four-week moving average, which smooths out some of the wrinkles in the data, rose 9,500 to 396,250.

Ordinarily, the data is released on Thursday morning, but was published a day early because of Thanksgiving.

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. Though Sandy caused a big increase, we’ve still been below the 370,000 threshold four of the last eight weeks, and nine of the last 17 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.