The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits remains near a 15-year low, rising a scant 3,000 to 265,000 in the seven days stretching from April 26 to May 2. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected claims to rise to a seasonally adjusted 277,000 from an unrevised 262,000 in the prior week. The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, fell by 4,250 to 279,500, the Labor Department said Thursday. That marks the lowest level since May 2000. The four-week average smooths out sharp fluctuations in the more volatile weekly report and is seen as a more accurate predictor 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. At this point, we've been below 300,000 in 28 of the last 34 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.
Also note, the official job totals for April will be released tomorrow.