The number of new U.S. applications for unemployment benefits fell by 21,000 to 323,000 in the week ended Nov. 16, putting new claims at the lowest level since late September, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected claims to fall to 334,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis. Veteran's day took place during the week and sometimes holidays can cause claims to decline by more than they usually do.
Initial unemployment claims still haven't quite reached late-summer levels, when the levels were at five-year lows, but the last couple of months have nevertheless shown real progress.
It's worth noting that these figures include Veterans Day, which can sometimes skew the data a bit.
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, despite the recent spike, we've been below 340,000 in 12 of the last 19 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.