The general trend on initial unemployment claims over the last few months has been largely encouraging, though there have been setbacks, and most analysts expected this morning's report to show an uptick in filings.
U.S. jobless claims fell by 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 358,000 in the week ended Feb. 4, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had estimated claims would rise to 370,000. Claims from two weeks ago were revised up by 6,000 to 373,000. The four-week average of claims, meanwhile, dropped by 11,000 to 366,250, the lowest level since April 2008.
In terms of metrics, keep in mind, when these jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it's considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape. When the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are actually being created rather quickly.
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.