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Jobless claims level off, average remains low

After some volatile swings in April and May, the latest Labor Department figures suggest initial unemployment claims have leveled off a bit.

The number of people who applied for new unemployment benefits last week rose slightly by 4,000 to 317,000, indicating little change in a steadily improving U.S. labor market. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected claims in the week ended June 7 to total 310,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis. The average of new claims over the past month increased by 4,750 to 315,250, bouncing off a seven-year low.

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 12 of the last 15 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.