The general trend on initial unemployment claims over the last few months has been largely encouraging, despite occasional setbacks, and today's report is consistent with all the recent data.
Initial jobless claims reached a four-year low a few weeks ago, and have remained effectively unchanged since.
The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits fell by 2,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 351,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch estimated claims would total 350,000. Claims from two weeks ago were revised up to 353,000 from 351,000. The four-week average of claims, meanwhile, dropped 5,500 to 354,000, keeping it at a four-year low. The monthly average smoothes out seasonal quirks and provides a more accurate view of labor-market trends.
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 four consecutive weeks, and five of the last seven 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.