After several weeks in which initial unemployment claims bounced from one extreme to the other, the new report from the Department of Labor was at least less volatile.
And while it's never good to see the totals inch higher, this week's figures were a letter better than expected, and remain under an important plateau.
The number of people who filed applications for unemployment benefits rose by 8,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 365,000, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had projected claims would rise to 370,000 from last week's upwardly revised level of 357,000. A more stable barometer of labor-market trends, the four-week claims average, dropped 2,750 to 365,500, the lowest level since late March. The four-week average reduces seasonal volatility in the weekly data.
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 four times in the last 17 weeks, though the four-week average offers at least some encouragement.
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.