Watching the initial unemployment claims lately has not been for the faint of heart. February and March were very encouraging; April was a disheartening mess; and as we saw in today's report from the Department of Labor, the totals appear to be leveling off in May.
Last week's figures were revised up slightly, and this week, the totals were unchanged.
The number of Americans who filed requests for jobless benefits was unchanged last week at 370,000, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday. Claims from two weeks ago were revised up to 370,000 from an initial reading 367,000. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had projected claims would fall to 365,000 on seasonally adjusted basis in the week ended May 12. The average of new claims over the past four weeks, meanwhile, fell by 4,750 to 375,000.
It's worth emphasizing 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 actually being created rather quickly. We've only managed to dip below the 370,000 threshold once in the last six 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.