The number of Americans seeking first-time unemployment benefits rose last week, a sign the labor market may have lost some steam after last month’s solid job growth. Initial jobless claims rose by 31,000 to a seasonally adjusted 313,000 in the week ended Feb. 21, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected 290,000 new claims.
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. At this point, we’ve been below 300,000 in 19 of the last 24 weeks. On the other hand, we’ve been above 300,000 four of the last seven 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.