The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week fell slightly and remained near a post-recession low, the government reported Thursday. Initial jobless claims dipped by 2,000 to 312,000 in the week ended June 21, the Labor Department said. Economists polled by MarketWatch expected claims to total 310,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis. The average of new claims over the past month edged up by 2,000 to 314,250. The monthly figure smooths out the jumpiness in the weekly report and offers a better look at underlying trends in the labor market, which has steadily improved through the first five months of 2014.
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 14 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.