Ordinarily, the report on initial unemployment claims is released on Thursday, but given this week's holiday, the good news came a day early this morning.
The number of people applying for new unemployment benefits was little changed last week, falling by 5,000 to 343,000. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected claims to total 346,000 in the week ended June 29, on a seasonally adjusted basis. The average of new claims over the past month, a more reliable gauge than the volatile weekly number, edged down by 750 to 345,500, the U.S. Labor Department said Wednesday. That's the lowest level in six weeks.
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 been below the 370,000 threshold 26 of the last 29 weeks, and below 350,000 in 9 of the last 13 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.
By the way, the monthly jobs report will be published on Friday, and I will be around to publish the updated jobs chart.