The general trend on initial unemployment claims over the last few months has been largely encouraging, despite occasional setbacks, and most analysts expected this morning's report to show a modest uptick in filings.
Weekly jobless claims in the U.S. fell by 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 348,000 in the week ended Feb. 11, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's the lowest level since March 2008, when the U.S. was in the early stages of a recession. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch estimated claims would total 368,000. Claims from two weeks ago were revised up to 361,000 from 358,000. The four-week average of claims, meanwhile, fell by a smaller 1,750 to 365,250, keeping it near a four-year low.
In terms of metrics, keep in mind, when these jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it's considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape. When the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are actually being created rather quickly.
We've now dropped below 370,000 for two consecutive weeks, and three of the last five 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.