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January 05, 2012 8:40 AM Jobless-claims data improves again

By Steve Benen

Last week’s report on initial unemployment claims was far less encouraging, but the general trend in an encouraging direction continued this week.

The number of Americans who filed requests for jobless benefits fell by 15,000 last week to 372,000, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday. Claims from two weeks ago were revised up to 387,000 from 381,000. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had projected claims would drop to a seasonally adjusted 373,000 in the week ended Dec. 31.

The average of new claims over the past four weeks, meanwhile, declined by 3,250 to 373,250, the lowest level since June 2008.

That last part is of particular interest. Week-to-week numbers are obviously more volatile, but the average over the last month or so is the best we’ve seen in over three years.

In terms of metrics, keep in mind, when these jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it’s 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 been below 400,000 in eight of the last nine weeks, and below 370,000 in two of the last four.

And with that, here’s the new homemade 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. By popular demand, I’ve also added an x-axis, marking the years reflected in the image.

Incidentally, keep in mind that the new monthly job totals will be released in 24 hours.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • c u n d gulag on January 05, 2012 8:45 AM:

    Well, I'm still claiming I'm jobless, since I see no evidence to the contrary. :-)

    Nor, any hope in the near future for getting that fixed. :-(

  • Danp on January 05, 2012 8:49 AM:

    It would be interesting to see what this chart would look like if the Economic Stimulus were passed earlier, and if it weren't watered down by the likes of Collins, Snowe, Spector, Nelson and Lieberman.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on January 05, 2012 9:06 AM:

    Figures never lie, but liars use figures!

    We know because we believe. We believe that Obama has destroyed the American economy and the future for workers. We believe that the only solution is to return to Republican Party rule in D.C. We believe that cutting taxes on the wealthy job creators is the answer to long term economy health in the U.S.

    Do you really believe that our low information base is going to let facts interfere with what we tell them to believe?

  • James Deffendall on January 05, 2012 9:26 AM:

    I've been out of steady work for twenty eight months in that time I've only worked a total of eight weeks. I'm a member of a union so I can't seek work from non-union companies for fear of losing or delaying retirement. When I got laid off I was receiving approx: $420 per month since I worked the eight weeks I now receive $80 per week. My bills going out per month in California are $2800 per month. They say to keep a reserve of six months what a joke. I'm coming to a point where my savings has ran out. The funniest part soon I will run out of benefits. At fifty years old I've been told so many times that I'm over qualified for the same position I've done for years. I've sent over 1700 resumes and applications out with responses like do you have a degree. I've never needed a degree in my field before and I've trained many Engineers throughout my career. I've found that I now lost my position to the same people I trained at half the wage. I re-apply at the same company and they now ask for a degree. I find it hard to go in to at least $80,000 to $100,000 in dept age fifty with the economy in the situation it is in now. I'm still seeing people walk away from their homes, some after 28 years of paying on them. Tell me where is the justice in watching banking industry get filthy rich, while not giving people the time of day to save their homes. I'm may be lucky though, I'm not a do nothing politician that should not be paid for the entire year for keeping this country stagnant. I end my comment with this I need a JOB!!!!!!

  • Ron Byers on January 05, 2012 9:42 AM:

    My guess is Jon Kyl and Mitch McConnell are hole up some place with John Boehner and their industry handlers wondering what they can do to change this disasterous turn of events. As the job market improves so do Obama's chances for reelection.

    James Deffendall, I feel your pain. I have a son who has been out of work for over a year. My daughter found a job just a few months ago. A friend of mine was a cartographer until he lost his job. Another friend was the controller of a well known company until he was let go. He was told they needed somebody younger. He has a lawyer and a law suit, but that doesn't pay the mortgage. Where does somebody over 50 go to find a job?

  • T2 on January 05, 2012 9:51 AM:

    this is terrible news for Republicans. Despite their best efforts to torpedo America's economy, it's getting better.

  • c u n d gulag on January 05, 2012 10:01 AM:

    James Deffendall,
    I'm with you, brother - I hear ya!
    I'm over 50, too, and have been unemployed for 32 out of the last 39 months.
    And the longest time I was ever unemployed before might have been a month - since I was 16!
    Oh, and I have a college degree, plus years of management experience - so I'm told I'm OVER qualified.

    Nice system they've got, eh?

    I need a job, too!

  • marty on January 05, 2012 10:07 AM:

    As one who is in my third month of unemployment with nary a sniff at a job- and I know there are likely millions more in worse shape, I think the "good news" of these job reports seems a bit forced at times.....In far too many cases- FAR TOO MANY- people (especially older workers) are taking jobs at MUCH lower salaries than they are used to.

    So, yes, they have "found a job" - but, this ratcheting down of the middle class still continues and won't do much to actually grow our economy. Millions of workers starting over at the bottom of the pay scale is not exactly a path to growth.

    Thanks, bankers- party on, motherfuckers!

  • Kerry on January 05, 2012 10:58 AM:

    The "new" jobless rate may be going down, but who is counting all of us who have been out of work for so long that our benefits have run out? Nobody, that's who.

    I am in pretty much the same boat as several of the previous commenters - over 50, college degree, over-qualified and/or want too much money even though I am asking for way less than what I was making 2-1/2 years ago.

    I am still looking and sending out resumes - where are these jobs, again? All the ones I am qualified for seem to be in INDIA!!

  • Another Steve on January 05, 2012 2:28 PM:

    It would be helpful if the graph had a label for the debt ceiling hostage crisis. The damage that episode did to that great holy of holies of Republican economic dogma "confidence" showed up on the balance sheets of many businesses in jump in unpaid A/R and coincides rather remarkably with that little jump in new claims in 2011.

  • Doug Boedecker on January 06, 2012 2:58 AM:

    I feel for all you folks & my thoughts and best wishes are with you. I think the only good news is this will help Obama win. I think, like the above comment, that there are 100,000+ of people who are off the unemployment rolls with no job. So, while I'm happy this helps keep the GOP at bay, it is still very, very tough out there.

  • bob on January 06, 2012 10:04 PM:

    Both parties are guilty of being bought. One is proud of the fact. Maybe it is time to vote for the party that does not take pride in making the middle class disappear. I think all caps on taxes should be removed and all dollars taxed at the same rate no matter how many dollars there are. This is one means of providing a soundly financed government for the people. Maybe we should stop doing business with those who want to cheat us, trade deficits. It is my understanding that full employment is a great way to increase GDP and reduce the deficit, perhaps government should regulate business into the right frame of ethical mind and patriotism. I too am over fifty and was unemployed for 42 months before becoming self employed as I had no benefits and no hope of getting employed without a college degree. Rock on my over fifty brothers and sisters, we will NOT lay down and slumber, it is not our time.

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