The number of people who applied for regular state unemployment-insurance benefits ticked up 1,000 to 295,000 in the week that ended April 18, signaling a low level of layoffs, according to government data released Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected jobless claims to decline to 288,000 from 294,000 in the prior week. The average of new claims over the past month, a less volatile figure than the weekly data, rose by 1,750 to 284,500, the U.S. Labor Department reported.
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 26 of the last 32 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.