After Hurricane Isaac caused a sharp increase in initial unemployment claims last week, many hoped the new report from the Department of Labor would show a quick recovery. That's not quite what happened.
Applications for U.S. jobless benefits fell by 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 382,000 in the week ended Sept. 15, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected claims to drop to 375,000. Initial claims from two weeks ago, partly inflated by hurricane Isaac, were revised up to 385,000 from an original reading of 382,000, based on more complete data collected at the state level. The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, rose by 2,000 to 377,750, the highest level since late June.
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 seven times in the last 24 weeks, but we've dipped below 370,000 in six of the last 11 weeks.
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.