The number of people applying for new unemployment benefits fell by 8,000 to 287,000 in the last week of September, yet another sign that layoffs remain low and the labor market continues to improve.... Economists polled by MarketWatch expected claims to rise to a seasonally adjusted 298,000 in the week of Sept. 21 to Sept. 27. The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, fell by 4,250 to 294,750, just a hair above an eight-year low. The four-week average reduces seasonal volatility in the weekly data and is seen as a more accurate barometer of labor-market trends.
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 26 of the last 29 weeks. (We've also been below 300,000 in 7 of the last 11 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.
Oh, and don't forget that tomorrow the monthly job totals for September will be released.