The Labor Department said Thursday that first-time jobless claims rose 17,000 to a seasonally adjusted 361,000 in the week ended Dec. 15, versus a slightly upwardly revised 344,000 in the prior week. That's almost exactly in line with the MarketWatch-compiled economist consensus of 360,000.
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 just four of the last eight weeks, though the further we get from the effects of Hurricane Sandy, the more these figures should improve.
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.