The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits in late March fell to the second lowest amount since the recession ended and touched levels last seen 15 years ago, making initial claims one of the few economic indicators to show underlying strength in a U.S. economy whose growth appears to have slackened in the first quarter. Initial jobless claims fell by 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 268,000 in the seven days stretching from March 22 to March 28, the government said Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected claims to total 285,000. The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, declined by 14,750 to 285,500.
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 23 of the last 29 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.
Also remember, tomorrow is jobs day -- the day the monthly job totals are released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.