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Jobless claims inch higher, though average remains low

With new monthly job totals on tap for tomorrow, the new Labor Department report on initial unemployment claims says exactly what everyone expected it to say.

The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits rose last week but initial claims clung near a post-recession bottom, reflecting the low number of layoffs taking place in the U.S. economy. Initial jobless claims climbed by 8,000 to 312,000 in the week ended May 31, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch expected claims to total 311,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis. The average of new claims over the past month, a more stable measure that smooths out weekly gyrations, fell by 2,250 to 310,250, touching the lowest level since June 2007.

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 11 of the last 14 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.