For the third consecutive week, initial unemployment claims have inched lower, reinforcing the larger impression that the job market continues to steadily improve. The new figures from the Department of Labor point to the second lowest level for new claims since July, though Superstorm Sandy may have skewed the results.
Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits dropped by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 355,000 in the week ended Nov. 3, a number that was distorted by hurricane Sandy. Initial claims from two weeks ago were unrevised at 363,000, based on more complete data collected at the state level, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected claims to decline to 365,000, but they warned that the storm could make the data unreliable for a few weeks.
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, and when the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are being created rather quickly. We've been below the 370,000 threshold four of the last six weeks, and nine of the last 15 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.