The general trend on initial unemployment claims over the last few months has been largely encouraging, despite occasional setbacks, but today's report is the best we've seen in quite a while.
About a month ago, initial jobless claims matched a four-year low, and as of today, they managed to get even better, exceeding expectations by dropping to the lowest level since February 2008.
The number of Americans who filed requests for jobless benefits fell by 5,000 last week to 348,000, the lowest level since February 2008, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday. Claims from two weeks ago were revised up to 353,000 from 351,000. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had projected claims would rise to a seasonally adjusted 353,000 in the week ended March 17. The average of new claims over the past four weeks, meanwhile, declined by 1,250 to 355,000.
In terms of metrics, keep in mind, when these jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it's considered 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 dropped below 370,000 for seven consecutive weeks, and eight of the last 10 weeks.
And with that, here's 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.