Jobless claims show unexpected improvement

Jobless claims show unexpected improvement
Jobless claims show unexpected improvement

It’s been a while since initial unemployment claims offered a little good news, which makes today’s new report from the Department of Labor a welcome sight.

The previous week’s figures were revised up slightly, but the new totals have reached their best level since May, and offer the sharpest improvement since April.

The number of Americans who filed requests for jobless benefits declined by 14,000 last week to 374,000, the lowest level in six weeks. Claims from two weeks ago were revised up to 388,000 from an originally reported 386,000, according to U.S. Labor Department data. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had projected claims would total 386,000 in the week ended June 30. The average of new claims over the past four weeks, meanwhile, dropped by 1,500 to 385,750, though it’s still near the highest level of the year.

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. We’ve only managed to dip below the 370,000 threshold once in the last 13 weeks, but for the first time since mid-May, we’re below 380,000.

And with that, here’s 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. Also note, the new monthly job figures come out tomorrow.