When it comes to initial unemployment claims, many expected September to build on the progress we saw in August. The data from the Labor Department, however, wasn’t quite what we were hoping for.
The number of people who applied for jobless benefits rose 11,000 to 315,000 in the week that ended Sept. 6, hitting the highest level since late June, according to government data released Thursday. Despite that rise, weekly claims remained near pre-recession levels, signaling a slow pace of layoffs. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected initial claims for regular state unemployment-insurance benefits to tick down to 301,000 in the most recent weekly data from an originally reported 302,000 for the prior period. […]The four-week average of new claims, a trend that’s less volatile than weekly changes, rose 750 to 304,000, the government reported.
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 23 of the last 26 weeks. (We’ve also been below 300,000 in four of the last eight 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.