US Jobless Claims Down Up But Slowing

It has been a difficult time for workers in America but, if the latest report means anything, it might be time for a turnaround.  According to the United States Department of Labor, while the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose again last week, this number was notably smaller than analysts had expected. This, analysts say, could demonstrate that labor market conditions continue to tighten.

Now, you have to break down these numbers a little further to really begin to understand the health of the labor market. Claims for the most recent week rang in at 234,000, which is up from the 232,000 last week. However, this is lower than the 235,000 Dow Jones estimated, lower than the 237,000 Bloomberg estimated, and lowe rthan the 238,000 Reuters had estimated.

Another metric—continued benefits (those filing for two or more weeks)–remained unchanged at 1,954,000 this week.  That is certainly good news. Overall, the four-week moving average of continuing claims fell 2,750, to 1.9 million; that is still below 2 million for the 17th week in a row.

More importantly, the US jobless claims registered below the 300,000 threshold for 129 straight weeks. That is the best hold on the numbers since 1970; this was a time when the labor market itself—the whole of the US population—was half the size of today’s labor market.

Looking at the big picture as a whole, though, you have to take stock in the fact that the unemployment rate in the United States is now at a 16-year low, sitting now at 4.3 percent.

But while all this is certainly a sign that we need not worry too much, if these numbers continue to hold at their present levels, they might start being ignored. These numbers need to start moving in one direction of the other before they can become truly meaningful in terms of which decisions need to be made for the sake of the economy.  Still, with layoffs at the lowest they have been for the last several decades, and a slowdown in unemployment applications, things are, in fact, looking up.

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